Today, my grandmother came to visit me. Not really. But I made her soup, and it was almost as though she was here.
I've been feeling a bit under the weather as of late -- not pregnancy-related, so don't worry. Just some sniffles that have now morphed into an elephant getting comfortable on my lungs, which cough frequently in ill-fated attempts to rid themselves of the heavy beast.
I think of my grandmother often: whenever I laugh; whenever I eat popcorn, pot roast, applesauce, frozen peaches, or anything with her Pennsylvania Dutch salad dressing; whenever I watch a beauty pageant on television; whenever I shop for or fold linens and towels; whenever I look through my cookbooks and find her ambidextrous, spidery hand-scrawled notes in the margins; whenever I hear a joke that makes me blush a little; whenever I catch myself humming.
Today, I wanted her to scratch my back with her crooked, arthritic fingers while I fell asleep in her big guest room bed. I wanted to open her linen closet and inhale the scent of clean sheets that equals comfort way back in my hippocampus, the primitive part of my brain. I wanted her to give me a stick of gum -- Wrigley's white. I wanted her to let me try on all of her peep-toe pumps, slingback heeled sandals and costume jewelry while she made her soup.
Her soup. I don't remember the first time I ate it. I don't remember not eating it. I remember sitting at the table in her kitchen, air redolent with the scent of simmering soup, looking for patterns in the strawberry wallpaper. I remember the same soup cooking in my house as I grew up. My mom served the soup with it's divinely-inspired counterpart: fresh homemade whole wheat bread.
Today, I needed the soup. I didn't have the energy to make bread, but the soup . . . oh, the soup. It was perfect. And delicious. And if I could have taken some to my sick sister, MommyJ, I would have.
Grandma Ayres' Hamburger Vegetable Soup
(I am not strict with these measurements. In fact, I kind of made them up. Because mostly, the soup is a list of ingredients and a big pot. So just go with it.)
1-2 lb. ground beef (lean)
3 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks of celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
2 medium onions, diced
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. brown gravy sauce
1-2 bay leaves
1/8-1/4 tsp. basil
Water, to cover
Brown the ground beef, and drain off the fat. (MommyJ rinses hers.) Put it in the pot with everything else. Cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until it smells right. Eat it. Then eat it again the next day -- it will be better.
Make it when you don't feel good. It will make you feel better. Make it for other people when they don't feel good. It will make them feel better, too. Make too much, and then give it away. Make way too much and give some of it away, then freeze the rest. No matter how you make it, comfort is sure to follow.