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.


Unknown said…
What a sweet and beautiful post. Mom is definitely the best.
I love the honesty in the soup. It's hearty, it's comforting, just like Mom.
Have a great day.
Lynne Rees said…
Thank you, Michael. And I just took a look at your blog too - after 3 weeks in Florida I'll be cooking up quantities of that Detox Soup!
Unknown said…
Hi Lynne. The detox soup will definitely help. :)
Have fun in Florida!
Christina said…
Oh, you gave us a prompt! Hooray!

I'll have to consider this for fuller development, but my first instinct is this.

Almost every Saturday morning in a kitchen rich with browned butter, my mother, a woman lacking any hint of French in her background and who turns every aigu into a grave and vice versa, stacks plates full of her tender, silky-sheer crepes.
Lynne Rees said…
Christina - this is beautiful. I love how you mix language with food - the precision of french accents with the sensuousness of your mother's crepes. It's gorgeous. Thanks so much for posting.
Sab said…
Hi Lynne - a bit off topic I see, but I just wanted to let you know that you've won a book competition on my site! Congratulations.

And as I see you have a rather food-obsessed place here, I'll try to dig up an old poem of mine vaguely on the topic - well, there'll be food in it, put it that way :-D Give me your address for the book, ok?

Here's a poem :-)
Martin Cordrey said…

Positano built over the centuries into the cliff face, deep in Amalfi’s heartland, and approached by lovers from the sea. Holding hands high above the waves, with the sun in the East, looking out from the tranquillity of Ravello we felt the Mediterranean breeze against our skin. The two of us intent on setting our hearts free of the past, like Pompeii, still partially buried beneath a hard crust.

Have you ever asked yourself what the human heart would taste of? That evening we gazed at each other over the table, and looked over the Bay of Naples as we watched flashes of lightning above the gaps in black clouds on the horizon. Throughout our meal the sparks inched their way landwards. This was the moment when desire become love, love evolved into a friendship not even death could divide, as if our two hearts had been welded as one over a Blacksmiths Anvil?

I ordered fish baked in salt; a ‘lava rock’ arrived with a wooden mallet. Steam entwined with the flicker of the flame, rose into the night sky from the debris on my plate. The flesh parted easily as I inserted my fish-knife, it tasted raw yet warm, tender like our first kiss, the flavour was devoid of any earthly imperfections, and untouched by the poison of human interference.

The fish that night was pure, heated to volcanic temperatures, as if cooked by a domicile Venus. A clap thunder made us both jolt, we laughed at each other. I poured your rose. We both smiled.
-k said…
My house (in Ames, Iowa,USA) is filled this frigid January night with the heady and hearty scents of your Mam's Vegetable Soup - this weekend's treat to me. I confess I had to Google "swede" to know what to add to my grocery list - turns out to be rutabaga on this side of the ocean! What a splendidly simple delicious soul-warming Sunday Supper! Thanks to both you and your amazing Mam!
Lynne Rees said…
Hi Martin - definitely 'astonishing' and passionate and transporting. Thank you for contributing.

Hello -k - I can't tell you how wonderful the idea of you making Mam's soup makes me feel. Thank you for letting me know. And yes, of course, it's rutabaga your side of the Atlantic. Although in fact, here in France they call 'swede' rutabaga too.
KalpanaS said…
''The fragrance, the tenderness'' love the warmth of the writing, connecting places, people and times!
Lynne Rees said…
Thank you so much for your encouragement, KalpanaS.