Abuela's Special Vegetable Soup

Chunky vegetable soup at your house was a treat.  The fun began when you started to prepare the vegetables. I was the happy recipient of your discarded strips of potato and carrot peel, celery ribs, fennel stalks. Butter knife in hand, I set to work industriously in the covered patio outside your kitchen.

We both chopped, sliced, and stirred in unison, you at the kitchen counter; me, at a picnic table, listening to your crystalline voice. You always loved to sing.

 Abuela in her garden

Abuela in her garden

You brought your soup to the table with a radiant smile. My pretend soup ended up in the trash. 

You didn’t complain if your 11 grandchildren made a mess, but you never tolerated rude language. “¡Te voy a poner una papa caliente en la boca!” The threat of a hot potato in our mouths was an effective deterrent.

Years later, when it was time for me to make soup for real, I asked you what made your soup taste so special. Your green eyes twinkled and you settled down for a chat, matecup in hand. The secret ingredient included flavors from the land of your ancestors, Spain.  

“Mix a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a heaped tablespoon of smoked paprika and heat over a low fire until the paprika dissolves,” you said. The paprika imparts a smoky yet subtle flavor. “Make sure you don’t burn it, or it’ll taste bitter. Then trickle this infused oil on the soup.” 

These orangey-red pools of oil carry flavor, family traditions and childhood memories. 

 

 

- Ana Astri-O’Reilly is a fully bilingual Spanish-English travel blogger and writer originally from Argentina. She now lives in Dallas, USA, with her husband. Besides writing on her travel blogs, Ana Travels and Apuntes Ideas Imagenes, Ana has published travel and food articles in a variety of outlets as well. She likes to eat good food, read good books and play tennis (she’s a beast at the net!)    

How to Cook Cod Pil-Pil for Your Son-In-Law and His Mates

Drive sixty miles to La Sucursal in Lugo. They sell the best salt cod; it doesn’t flake and will leave your son-in-law and his mates (and, of course, yourself) satisfied. Why Lugo, in the interior, has better cod to offer than your town, on the coast, remains a mystery.

Immerse the cod in a bowl of water under a cloth so that it can free itself of the salt. Leave for forty-eight hours and change the water every twelve. Shake your head every time your grandchildren come into the kitchen to check if the cod is still under the cloth.

1882 Eva Ferry.jpg

In a clay pot coated with olive oil (generously), brown a chopped head of garlic and eight chilies. Take out and replace with the cod, skin on the outside. Grab the sides of the pot with both hands and shake firmly, in circles. Do it for twenty minutes: it is vital that you don’t stop, even after the sweat starts to pour. The grandchildren will stare at the cod as it lets out its fat to produce the thick, white sauce known as pil-pil.

Dish up with the garlic and chili. Join your son-in-law and his mates in the basement and enjoy your dinner. Your grandchildren will eat their soup in the kitchen, but make sure they eat a bit of cod too: fish is an acquired taste and it is important they start early.

 

- Originally from Galicia in Spain and a resident of Glasgow in Scotland, Eva Ferry's fiction and non-fiction work has been published or is forthcoming in Salome Lit, The Public Domain Review, The Corvus Review, The Cold Creek Review, Foliate Oak and Novelty Magazine, among others.

How to Make Spaghetti

You don’t like spaghetti Neo what style anymore? Neopolitan? You been eating it Neopolitan style. You ate it Neopolitan style before you went off to Yale. I don’t care if they served 3 kinds of pasta with 3 different kinds of sauces to choose from.

 Image by jeffreyw/Flickr

Image by jeffreyw/Flickr

Boil the spaghetti. Add some salt. Also add oil so it doesn’t stick together. Brown some ground beef seasoned with Lawry’s. Use some paper towels to drain the oil from the beef. Heat some jars of Ragu in a pot. Season it; you know Ragu doesn’t have any flavor. Chop up some bell pepper and onions. Drain the cooked spaghetti. Pour it back into the pot you boiled it in. Add the warm sauce, meat, bell peppers, and onions. Stir it up.

Sauce to pasta ratio? Girl, you can eat this spaghetti or starve.

- Deesha Philyaw is the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Deesha's writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteFullGrownPeople.com, and elsewhere. At The Rumpus, Deesha inaugurated an interview column called VISIBLE: Women Writers of Color. 

How to Fry an Egg

Use a skillet big enough for only one egg. Others may want one; they can make their own. Your daughter asks you to show her how; you tell her you'll teach her, but later. When you're finished eating. She'll forget because children are stupid, forgetful. She'd ruin it anyway, and waste an egg.

Adjust the tie on your bathrobe. Pour a scotch. Slide the egg from the pan onto one of the good china saucers—you didn't carry them across the ocean to sit in a cabinet. Bring it and your drink to the table along with the Times you've tucked into your armpit.

Cut the egg all at once in neat rectangles; salt and pepper it well. She will watch you, ask how you knew when it was done. Ignore her. Set your knife, dripping with yolk, delicately, nearly noiselessly across the plate's edge. Others would drag the blade across the fork to retrieve the leavings, but that is a chore for people who have not-enough.

 The author and her father

The author and her father

Take a bite. Open the newspaper and hold it in front of you. She will ask for a taste. Ignore her. She will ask for a bit of the paper. Remove the funnies; place them beside your plate. Hand her the business section. She will give up soon enough.

- Stefanie LeJeunesse

How to Clean Your Plate

It’s not how you make an omelette that’s important. It’s how you eat it.

You have to eat it all. Stay focused: there is one piece of toast, cut on the diagonal, because your son is too poor to buy extra bread. He is too poor to buy extra bread because you threw him out of your house when he was 18. Don’t focus on that. Focus on the toast.

Eat one forkful of omelette at a time. Make sure each forkful has the same amount of eggs, cheese and chives on it. Don’t say grace. Wonder if your son ever says grace. Wonder if he goes to Mass. Don’t ask. Eat your eggs.

His wife made the omelette. His wife made the new baby, and the girl sitting beside you. You have never met his wife before. Your son is thirty-two.

When the eggs are half-gone, mop your plate with one half of the toast. Eat it one bite at a time. Wonder if the little girl knows that “chleb” means “bread” in your language.

For the second half of the omelette, cut the eggs with your fork and place them on the toast. Eat the toast with the eggs. Do not help the little girl when the eggs fall off her toast; everyone has to learn sometime.

Turn your plate over. Turn her plate over and hold it above her head. Tell her “This is good. This is clean. This is how you know you are a good girl.”

 illustration by the author

illustration by the author

- Rowan Beckett Grigsby is the less-censored less-palatable alter ego of an attorney who might want to work in this town again someday. Professional editor and graphic designer by day and professional knitter by night, she has been an Unchaste Reader and is a regular contributor to Ask a Raging Feminist.

 

Nine Kinds of Ice Cream

In the basement, you keep a spare freezer for extra necessities – a turkey on sale in October that will do for Thanksgiving; the fruits of a 10-for-$10 sale. When your son calls to say he will be bringing your granddaughters to visit, you want to have something to offer them. Children love ice cream, you know, but you have not met these children. What flavors would they like? Your son says anything will do. But you want to be sure. You buy ice cream and keep it in the basement freezer. You present a different flavor on every visit.

Neapolitan

You chose this one because it is bound to have something everyone will like. The granddaughters are shy, but smiling. They eat all the strawberry and vanilla, but leave the chocolate.

Orange sherbet

When your children were young, they loved orange sherbet. Your granddaughters are clearly children of a different time.

Rainbow sherbet

Apparently sherbets of all flavors have fallen out of favor with modern children.

 

Maple walnut

Your son’s wife mentions that this is her favorite flavor. The granddaughters seem to like it too, though they pick out the nuts.

Coffee

The ice cream is the same shade as your granddaughters’ skin, and just as smooth. You realize their visits bring you joy. You did not expect joy.

Vanilla

Your son proudly tells you that when he buys this flavor, he still pours on chocolate syrup from a can. Your oldest granddaughter loves it too, he says. You smile.

Mint chocolate chip

You buy this flavor in the summer, to ease the ever-present heat. Your granddaughters finish quickly so they can play with the Tinkertoy set you brought down from the attic. You offer your daughter-in-law a cup of coffee. Her people come from the south, after all.

Cherry vanilla

Your granddaughters poke at the cherries. The older one eats some, slowly, saying they are too cold and hurt her teeth; the younger one leaves them all in the bowl. You move that box to the back of the basement freezer and tell your son that maybe they’ll like that flavor when they’re older. You wonder if it will be true.

Chocolate marshmallow swirl

Your oldest granddaughter tells you this is her favorite flavor. You glance at your son’s pale skin, his blond hair under the kitchen light, and then at the dark skin of your daughter-in-law, her jet-black curls. You clear the empty bowls without comment.

 

- Laura Lucas is an alumna of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and an Artist Trust EDGE graduate.  Her writing has appeared in Beat the Dust, Falling Star Magazine, Line Zero, Imaginaire, The Poetic Pinup Revue, Vapid Kitten, and It Starts With Hope, the blog for The Center for Victims of Torture. 

Graphic artist and painter Allen Forrest was born in Canada and bred in the U.S. He has created cover art and illustrations for literary publications and books. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas. (@artgrafiken on Twitter, website here)

Peanut Butter Crackers

Mom would place a box of Salerno saltine crackers, a large jar of smooth Peter Pan Peanut Butter along with a couple of sticks of Blue Bonnet margarine on the kitchen table, putting my older brothers and sister in charge of breakfast. The center of the table had a stack of comics for our morning reading. Coffee was bubbling in the percolator on the table’s edge.

My oldest brother Rich would open the box of crackers to begin the process. He would cut a wedge off the margarine and spread it across the crackers, salty side in. My other brother Pat would slide a knife full of peanut butter on a separate cracker and press the buttered side together with the peanut butter one. My older sister Ruth would pour us each black coffee while I watched the assembled crackers rise on a plate like a Jenga tower before my two brothers decided we had enough.

We would each grab a stack and dip them in our coffee, watching the oil seep across the surface. I loved to squeeze my crackers to make margarine ‘worms’ curl out through the holes. Speaking was at a minimum while we dunked crackers in coffee, ate, traded comics and refilled coffee cups. It was the start of our day.

Two more kids and a half dozen apartments later, Mom would reminisce how she kept us healthy with the peanut butter meals we consumed. She had gotten the tip from a woman she worked with during World War Two when rationing was in place. “Protein keeps you going and peanut butter was one item we didn’t have a problem getting,” she said. “I did what I had to do and you all turned out fine.”

 

- Kathy Doherty has a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University Denver. She has published work in airplanereading.org, Metrosphere, Foliate Oak, Hot Metal Press and One Million Stories Anthology. She lives in Parker, Colorado with her amazing Siberian Forest cat, Vladimir. 

Christmas is Coming

Get the house decorations out of the storage area. You will put up the lights outside and your wife will handle most of the inside, but there is one indoor thing you should do yourself. That large box holds the illuminated Santa head that you painted brown because there were very few African-American Santas in the stores in the 70s. Hang that in the den. 

  image by the author

image by the author

Consult with your wife about the menu. Pull out menus from previous Christmas dinners and look through some of those new cookbooks. You'll be responsible for the meat, maybe capon this year? Standing rib? Absolutely not turkey; seems like we just finished the Thanksgiving turkey. You'll also fix at least one dessert, something different, like a 24-hour plum pudding with hard sauce because Christmas deserves something special. Ask your daughter what breakfast she will prepare.

  image by Ulysses Campbell

image by Ulysses Campbell

On Christmas Eve, pull out the fondue cookbook that is falling apart and the two fondue pots. There will be one cheese fondue, one hot oil, and a warm potato salad for dinner. Buy lots of sterno. You have done this every year and no one has burned down the house yet. There will be lots of laughter as food falls off of forks and is fished out, crispy. 

Hug your kids extra hard when they go bed, especially once they are grown. It's good to have them all here, under the Santa head and eating cheese fondue. 


- This is first in a series of three Christmas entries by contributing editor Jacqueline Bryant Campbell

Everyday Cloth Napkins

He was the handsome product of an excessive upbringing, immodestly garish by sensible Midwest standards. His business casual wardrobe was unmistakably prep schooled, and always buttoned down. He was a classic. As classics sometimes do, he was unable to adapt gracefully to some generally accepted conveniences of our modern lives. Namely, paper napkins.

Over time, he learned to tolerate them as a necessary evil, reluctantly procured with fast food perhaps.

If you are also among the genetically classist and/or enjoy mild to moderate OCD, the cloth napkining lifestyle is practical and easy to implement.

Everyday cloth napkins must be cotton, and of a woven variety that is wrinkle-free post-clothesdryer. While color and pattern are a matter of preference, anything too endearing is bound to get hoarded away for a dinner that will never happen. I prefer classic-size darker neutrals. Oversized napkins are annoying and basically less charming tea towels.

Keep your napkins in an accessible kitchen drawer or countertop basket. Two sets of eight are plenty for most people, and unsoiled napkins can be set aside for personal reuse. Rotating them into like colored laundry is a good habit to ensure you always have several clean.

Solo meals frequently eaten in alternative spaces can be made exponentially more enjoyable with a cloth napkin. On the sofa, use one to carry then hold a hot soup bowl, or insulate a cup of ice cream. Guests may question the "need" for such extravagances while eating pizza off your coffee table. Shrug them off knowing you won't be forced to look at or clean up their defiled tacky paper wads.

 image by the author

image by the author

How to Set a Table

Set the table early. With precision. Unfurl the tablecloth. Release its starchy scent into the morning air. Run your hands over it. Take care that the cutlery is polished to a fine shine. Check the place mats for smudges. They are immaculate but wipe them over just in case before setting down the china plate. God forbid there be even a speck of dirt.  

Fork to the left of the plate, knife to the right, blade pointing inwards because outwards would be rude. Place the soup spoon, because there is always soup, even in summer, to the right of the knife. The dessert spoon and fork face left and should be set above the plate, but not too close because people move their plates when eating. The wine glass, delicate and long-stemmed, goes to the right, and after that the tumbler for cold drinks. The napkin, matching the tablecloth, should be folded into a neat triangle and fixed under the fork.

 photo by  Emily Chen-Morris

photo by Emily Chen-Morris

For special occasions, fold the napkin into a lily and sit it in the center of the plate. This will be a nice touch that your dinner guests will appreciate.

Step back and survey your dinner table waiting quietly, obediently, for the guests to arrive. Be ready at least fifteen minutes before the appointed time. Laugh when they arrive, fashionably late, and tell them it was no bother at all. This is how you were brought up and you do this all the time, you really do.   


- Joanna Chen lives on the edge of a forest, where she walks almost every day with whoever will come with her. Most days it's her dog, Pudding. Joanna writes exactly what she thinks at This is Not a Story  and also has a column at The Los Angeles Review of Books, The View From Here.  As for laying the table correctly, Joanna prefers eating with her fingers whenever possible.