The end of term period can be particularly daunting for most of us students. If you find yourself sitting at a desk for most of your day, shivering as the temperature outside has suddenly dropped and apprehensive as the shadow of looming deadlines creeps in on a murky December evening, my grandmother has just the thing for you: a warm bowl of her hearty vegetable soup. It’s a fairly simple meal, but still incredibly flavoursome, and one that is sure to bring momentary comfort in the season of summatives and snowstorms.
You will need a courgette, some carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cinnamon sticks, salt and water. There is no set quantity to each ingredient, so feel free to balance the recipe according to your own taste. Begin by gently rinsing the dirt off of your vegetables. Next, slice or cube them as you boil some water in a cooking pot. There must be enough water in your pot to submerge all of your ingredients, so be mindful of that when deciding on the measure of your vegetables.
You guessed it: once the rinsing, the peeling and the slicing is done, soak your vegetables in your boiling water and salt the mixture. You might choose to slip in a cinnamon stick for the added flavour. Once you find they are tender enough, which should be in about seven to ten minutes, dispose of the bouillon water and blend your vegetables together with some fresh water. Revel in your artfulness as splashes of greens and oranges and cream come together in a graceful swirl before slowly fading into a healthy green. It’s important to remember not to overwater the mixture at the very beginning. Rather, add the water gradually, and salt your mixture accordingly. That way, you can keep control of your soup’s consistency, and have it be as smooth or as lumpy as you like. That’s it! There’s not more to it. And maybe that’s just what a stressed out university student needs this time of year: The peaceful comfort in spending time with a few damp vegetables, simply to give oneself the time of day.
I find that every time I have my grandmother soup, taking in, spoonful by spoonful, the quiet relief that I am doing nothing at all but nourishing myself, I am reminded of a passage in Julie Powell’s book about Julia Child’s potage parmentier: ‘The thing you learn with potage parmentier is that “simple” is not exactly the same as “easy”…Certainly, I had made easier dinners…Ordering pizza and getting drunk on Stoli gimlets while waiting for it to arrive, that was another favourite…But now, three bowls of potato soup later, I was, to my relief, thinking of nothing much at all. I lay on my back on the couch, quietly digesting. Julia Child’s soup had made me vulnerable.’