Refrigerator Soup

For me, winter is soup weather.

Making soup is recycling what I’ve already got into something new and flavorful. I make my own stock. When I finish that meal of chicken or turkey, I put the bones in a freezer bag until I am ready to boil them into a flavorful broth, which I freeze in increments.

When I make soup I start with onions and garlic, sautéed in olive oil. Then I stir in broth and add whatever’s to hand. Look in the refrigerator, what have I got? Celery, that bit of broccoli left over from last Sunday’s dinner, some squash I picked up at the produce market, the mushrooms I’ve been meaning to use.

Those carrots have been in the crisper a bit too long. They may not look pretty, but cut up and tossed into the pot they’ll add some color. So will the tomatoes. Pinto beans, maybe some rice or potatoes.

Then I go through the spice rack and add this and that, whatever strikes my fancy – salt and pepper, of course, usually chili powder. How about some of that curry blend? Or maybe sage and bay leaf?

Let it simmer, then, until the house smells good and it’s time to ladle that soup into a bowl.

My mother asks, “How can you eat so much soup? Don’t you get tired of it?”

It’s nourishing and filling. Good for me, a good way to get in my daily veggies. When I get home from work, soup is a quick and easy dinner. I eat it for several days, then I freeze the rest.

Soup is different every time I make it. It takes on the character of what goes into the pot and the spices I add. And sometimes it tastes better the second day.

Soup is like writing. Instead of broth, vegetables and spices, I’m mixing plot, character and setting into a work of fiction, adding spices and letting it simmer.

Soup is recycling, and so is writing. Instead of recycling turkey bones into turkey broth, leftover broccoli into veggie soup, I reuse scraps of this and that in my writing.

For example, an incident that I cut from an early draft of my second Jeri Howard book, Till The Old Men Die, found its way into the fifth book, Nobody’s Child. A character from my seventh book, Witness to Evil, is the protagonist in my upcoming suspense novel What You Wish For.

My fellow Perseverance Press authors and I can start with the same three elements, and each of us will cook up a different pot of soup. My story may have a Northern California flavor informed by my own experiences, while my blogmates will add savor from their locations and lives.

So no, I never get tired of soup.


4 Responses

  1. Thanks, Janet.

    Your soup reminds me of an exercise one of my critique groups did when we were starting out. We’d each throw a word on the table, then each write a story with the string of words as the title. All very different, of course!

    One of my published short stories, “The Parlor, the Necklace, and the Book” was a result of that jumble of nouns.

  2. Perhaps a good question to ask about a first draft: “Is it soup yet?”

  3. Nice analogy, Janet. I recycle a lot too. The old adage “Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme” (the more it changes, the more it stays the same” is definitely NOT true for writers. Rather, soup and story become “something rich and strange.” Well, rich anyway!

  4. I like the “is it soup yet?” test!

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