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"Soup (A Family Recipe)" by Leah Donnella

Total time: 5 generations

Prep: 94 years, back and forth from now

Cook: 4 hours, 18 min., 1 pregnant pause

Yield: 0 to 12 servings







1. Lease an apartment far away from anyone you know or love. Don’t furnish it. All you’ll need is a stove and a knife and a pot.

1. Walk to the farmer’s market. Become overwhelmed by the chaos and the mustached men weighing Tuscan kale. Touch an apple. Wonder if you’re expected to pay in cash. Realize you have none. Sneak away to the Shop ‘n’ Bag on 42nd. Buy slightly more groceries than you can carry comfortably. Walk home.

Note: When it comes to making soup, there are only first steps.

1. Spend 20 minutes thinking about your grandmother. Recall how she always had a fresh pot of matzo ball soup ready for you when you walked in the door – to date the best soup you’ve ever eaten. Think about how that soup made you feel safe. Remember the heart that went into making it. Recall that is was from a Manischewitz mix. Start peeling garlic.

1. Look into the pot. Feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. Take a nap on the floor. Wake up after dark. Decide you can’t do this. Try to fall back asleep. Fail.

1. Have a sip of alcohol. Use whatever is in your pantry. Suggestions: Boxed wine. Bottled wine. Canned beer. Bottled beer. Grape juice that’s been sitting in the sun for too long. Sherry.

1. Decide to stop eating meat for a week. Let the week become a few years. Hesitate to call yourself a vegetarian. Convulse into spasms of olfactory ecstasy every time you pass the cheesesteak stand on the corner of your block. Let the years become decades. On your deathbed, shout to grandchildren that you were only taking a break. Demand that they bring you hot dogs. Regret not having bought chicken broth that one time.

1. Proclaim that soup is a proxy for love, maybe the best one you’ll ever find. Don’t dwell on it. Turn the stove on.

1. Chop vegetables. Discover that you’re out of shape. Find that you aren’t surprised.

1. Curse your electric stove. Complain that no one cooks soup on an electric stove. Talk about the need to see a flame. Talk about authenticity. Raise your voice. Talk about back in the day. Talk about the cheap motherfucking slumlords who rented you this place. Add rosemary, and a splash of that alcohol. Lower your voice. Talk about that showing them.

1. Choose what kind of soup to make. Recognize that you don’t have the right ingredients. Proceed.

1. Find out you actually needed a spoon as well. Debate whether or not a misshapen leek can act as a substitute. Decide against it. Put your jacket on. Stand, paralyzed, at your door. Internalize the fact that every store is closed. Walk down the hall. Stand outside your neighbor’s door for three minutes (slightly longer if needed). Knock on the door. Start walking away before it’s answered. Turn back. Ask to borrow a spoon. Tell yourself to bring them soup when you return the spoon. Never return the spoon.

1. Stir gently.

1. Consider that this is only the first time, and that you will, in all likelihood, cook again, and eat again, and do things better than you did them this time. Consider that you live alone, and that it doesn’t matter if the soup is a disaster, and that no one ever has to know if you pour two gallons of soggy vegetable water into your toilet. Consider how much of your paycheck you spent on groceries. Reconsider.

1. Remember that you’re 22 years old and not nearly as lonely as you think.

1. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

1. Take a deep breath.

1. Eat the soup. (By yourself.) (Cry.) (Optional.)



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