Lessons: Mam's Vegetable Soup

for Mammy

It has never been in your nature to give up, not even at catering college when the head chef put you to peeling and chopping onions every day for weeks in a row. You were there to learn and you would take something from every task, every day in that professional kitchen; you would show yourself determined and willing, unable to be beaten.

At home you astonished us, unwrapping the knives you kept sheathed in a drawer, that we were forbidden to touch, and transforming a topside of beef into ‘Olives’, a shoulder of lamb into Navarin. You were suddenly more than the wife and mother we knew: a woman carrying the noises and scents of other countries into our south Wales home, your fingers scented with garlic; al dente you said as if the words had always belonged to you.

And here I am, forty years later, astonished again by this bowl of soup you carry into the conservatory and place before me in a patch of sunlight: the simplicity of parsnip, onion, carrot, potato, simmering in a glassy broth flecked with herbs. You hand me parsley, parmesan. ‘Can I get you anything else?’ you say. The fragrance, the tenderness.

Mam’s Vegetable Soup

2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped or crushed
1 small swede, 1 parsnip, 3 carrots, 3 potatoes all finely diced
2 organic vegetable stock cubes
1 litre water
dried mixed herbs
salt + pepper
a little olive oil

Put all veg + olive oil in large saucepan, cook for 10 mins, stir.
Dissolve stock cubes in boiling water, pour into saucepan, add herbs.
Simmer gently for about 2 hours until cooked, season with salt and pepper to taste.

try for an equal amount of root vegetables

Hungry Writing Prompt:

Write about a time you were astonished by food, by the look of it or by its texture, taste or smell. Or write about a time when someone you knew well astonished you.