Happy New Year everyone! December has been a nice full month and the start of January full of illness, so here we are back again with something non sewing related! I feel like I tried to make this into a sewing blog and have a really clear “brand identity” whatever that means and it’s ended up just making me more hesitant to write at all. I’ve decided that’s kind of stupid and pointless, since the entire idea of this blog at its outset was to just get writing again and get some of that mild existential rage out (not that I’m exactly angry all the time, but you know… I’m not not angry either? it’s like the choleric’s equivalent to artsy melancholy I guess.)
SO! With that bit of introspection out of the way, here’s something I wrote in April 2018 and never published – The Art of Simple had asked for essay submissions and I sent this in, but I figure since it’s been almost 2 years and they didn’t get back to me it’s probably time to get it out to the world on my own platform. We never did manage to get that sort of little community going in Groningen, sadly – though we did meet some lovely people and had good times. Maybe different places and different stages call for different kinds of hospitality? Maybe this new move and the fact that we have a garden and a larger kitchen means we can get back to feeding people soup? Maybe we’ll get a BBQ? Only time will tell.
Here’s to everyone who’s had soup at my table, and there’s a lot of you, thank you – and I hope we can get together again sometime… Around a bowl of soup.
It’s Monday lunchtime in the staff room of the elementary school. Everyone’s chatting about the week ahead. Report card time is coming and some people are planning on staying late tonight – after all a burden shared is split in half, right? Will I be joining them? – I snap out of my daydream. Tonight? No, tonight won’t work. Tonight there’ll be a horde of hungry physics undergrads at my table when I get home – trying to unravel the complexities of quantum mechanics over a sturdy round piece of solid oak. I’ll get home and start cooking onions and beans. Filling the air with earthy, homey smells while they fill it with questions and the sound of pencils scratching. “What did you get in part a? Could you have a sign error? Wait, what’s that constant again? Right.” And then the soup will be ready, textbooks pushed aside, stomachs filling to match full brains. The daydream at lunch was productive. Fried sage leaves are the perfect bean soup topping.
We’re not exactly sure how it happened, but sometime that semester our dining room table got dragged into the living room, the couch pushed against the sliding door to the balcony and every other Monday, from after class to after dark, our tiny apartment played host to “homework and soup” parties. We were 21 years old, in love, newly married and he was still an undergrad. I had a job with a way-too-long commute and colleagues my parents’ age. I loved to cook and needed community. They needed to get homework done and to eat good food. We’d make this work. After a while, people started bringing beer and desserts and bread to share. It was scruffy, it was cheap and it was very good.
Fast forward a few years and we’re living in a new town, with a new baby, a new job and once again needing community. We’re moving in different circles – grad students for him, mommy groups for me. There’s a bit more money to go around now, but they don’t really let you take babies to the bar – and besides – those places are loud and what I need most is adult conversation… The old Monday nights come to mind and we know we’ve struck gold. We’d buy a few extra chairs and each invite a friend or two (with any attached partner and children if applicable) distribute the wine, salad and bread duties among the guests, make soup and dessert and let the people roll in as soon as they were off work, every other Friday. Once again, it was scruffy, it was cheap and it was very good.
There were some great conversations around that table (a different one – a big, square, bar height thing) there was some great food. Some people came once, a few became regulars, a very few had us over in return, and after a season, like the Mondays before them our Fridays faded out. The weather got better, that kid got a sibling, and most importantly – we’d found our people. Soup people. Backyard BBQ people. Beach picnic people.
Today we’re in yet another town, with another job, another new baby on the way. We’re finding our feet now after a few months here and we’ve found a new table too (a rectangle this time, with handy drawers for napkins and coasters built in). I think it might be time to find it a few more chairs and bowls and start simmering a new pot of soup.
Claire Oman is married to a brilliant young astronomer and mother to a small brood of children. She defines their family as Academic Nomads. When she’s not busy feeding people, she can be found reading, sewing, or blogging at belligerenceandchocolate.com.