Pride goeth before the Fall.
Or during. I'm not sure.
One thing I am sure of, is the humbling nature of cooking. You who have read this blog before will remember Candy Corn Soup. I make it every year. Every year it has all new ingredients, with only one constant; the candy corn.
This year, in my perpetual quest to stop being so darn lame, I planned to make the soup early in the week, on the night we would carve pumpkins, rather than crowd Halloween night with more to do. Here is where the pride part comes in. I set to work gathering a menagerie of ingredients from the fridge to dump into my pot; broth, onions, sundry leftovers and chunks of butter in crumpled wrappers. It was less "soup-making" and more "artistically cleaning out the fridge". I felt so proud as I used the last of this and the tail-end of that. I'm funny that way; I get tremendous joy from using every scrap of leftover food. I scrape peanut butter jars clean, use bread loaf heals, and get more mileage out of leftover rice than should be legal, all for the thrill of it! Perhaps all of the starving-children-in-China talk from my childhood took vigorous root, I don't know, but I love me a good used-up leftover.
So on this night I was very pleased with myself as I chopped and dumped and stirred. I noticed, though, that my jumbo pot of ingredients, some of them frozen, was simply not warming up.
(Oh, no. You see it coming, don't you? Put on your concerned face, and shake your head...)
I turned up the heat.
(now give an exasperated sigh.)
FLASHBACK MONTAGE: In this flash back you will see clips of the many, many times I have burned food, played in rapid succession to the tune of "Burning down the House" by Talking Heads (or The Platters"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" if you are of the grey-headed generation). Smoke billows, my children fan the screeching smoke alarm with dish towels, and in the end, we see a cluster of clips of me scrubbing black char out of the bottom of the same darn cooking pot, over and over and over ...(in my flashbacks the part of me is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She looks tragic, yet sexy, so you forgive her for burning the food).
There are, in my disjointed little mental-kitchen, only two settings on a burner; OFF and HIGH.
You know the next part of the story. I walked out of the kitchen and got busy cleaning the tush of someone or another, and *sniff sniff*, that tell-tale burning smell wafted out to the living room, because bad odors always waft. Signal smoke alarm.
***Yada, yada, yada, and I dump a ton of soup down the sink. The bottom of my pot looks dismal. The old me would have cried at this point, but I have to say - it takes a lot more than this to get me to eek out a tear these days. I won't claim I wasn't disappointed, but I felt more embarrassed than anything, what with the waste of all those ingredients and the entire population of Chinese children depending on me to appreciate what I have. I hung my head in shame and called Guy.
"I burned the soup." I pouted to Guy over the phone, almost hoping that he would say something judgy so that I could deflect the anger I was feeling at myself onto him.
"It's not a big deal. Just fix something else."
"I'm so lame," I said, feeling the words more deeply than my joking tone would let on.
"You're not lame. You just need to be more patient." was all he said.
What the heck?! Patient? What did patience ever have to do with cooking? Patience is for potty-training and teaching a kid to tie their shoes, and the entirety of the teen years. But the more I thought on it, the more I saw the wisdom in his words. In my haste, I put the pedal to the metaphoric medal, often. And if I allowed myself to think on it, I knew my speed-demon mentality spilled over into many other areas of my life, leaving a jet-stream of calamity in my wake. Isn't it strange how something so true can elude us for so long?
Life is kind enough to give us lots of do-overs. It is up to us not to waste them.
I went to the store the next day and bought some nice, squeaky-new, non-leftover ingredients, and vowed - not to NOT burn the soup - but to make it with patience. The next morning I slowly and carefully cooked a pound of bacon, staying in the kitchen the whole time, and not taking on any other tasks. I boiled yams and potatoes, peeled them, and then set about to assemble the soup.
I will spare you all the unexciting details, except this:
I did not burn the soup.
It felt kind'a great
(and tasted pretty dang good as well).
This Year's Candy Corn Soup:
Patiently cook 1lb of bacon (save drippings. Here the word drippings refers to pork lard. Deal with it.)
Bake or boil 5lbs of potatoes and 6 smallish, peeled yams or sweet potatoes.
Sautee 1/2 an onion and 2 tbsp. fresh minced garlic in the "drippings".
In a large pot, combine: cubed potatoes and yams, crumbled bacon, onions with drippings, 1 carton broth, 1 block cream cheese, 6-8 cups of milk, and 4-8 tbsp butter (oh, yeah, like you aren't eating your kid's Halloween candy right now. You can do extra sit-ups tomorrow).
Blend with hand mixer or in blender till creamy, then simmer patiently 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste, or until the guilt settles in... about 2-3 tsp salt.
Serve with 3 candy corns in each bowl (or with toasted candied almond slices), and garlic toast. If you burn it, don't feel bad. You are still a very nice person.