The Alchemy of Soup

photo courtesy of Rosy_Photo pixabay

Last week, for not the first (or second or third or fourth) time in the last month, I stood at the stove making a pot of soup.

I’m not a great cook. I don’t really even like cooking, if I’m being totally honest. The creativity that flows in some areas of my life hits the wall in the kitchen, and I’m okay with that. I have a few standard dishes I rotate through. I rely heavily on my crock pot in the winter. We eat a lot of grilled chicken and salads in the summer. We have some favorite take out places. It’s not fine dining but we’re not starving over here.

But making soup? This is a signature meal, and numerous times over the last few weeks I’ve turned carrots, celery, escarole, chicken and vegetable stock, rotisserie chicken, and a pinch of white pepper into liquid comfort.

It’s a kind of kitchen alchemy, turning base ingredients into healing balm for mourning, sickness, fatigue, distress.

I often hold back a cup of soup from each batch to eat later. I think about the person it was made for and hope it eased some stress in their day. I imagine them finding nourishment in a meal they can quickly reheat so they can focus on their family and not the food. I think about their situation and wish them peace. It makes me feel good to be able to provide. I hope it makes them feel good to be provided for.

It’s a kind of communion ritual.

I’ve had a lot of discussions over the last week about the nature of help, our motivations for giving, beliefs about spirituality and the Divine, the effectiveness of prayer.  Big questions that often arise in times of distress or crisis.

I once heard an interview with an astrophysicist who said that scientists can only see about 25% of the known universe, that most of what we know is out there is invisible to us. Beyond that is a mystery.

In other words: We don’t even know what we don’t know about what we do know. We can’t possibly know what else is out there – or who we are in the context of physical infinity, let alone spiritual.

Do our good intentions or pleas offered to the invisible actually help? I’d like to think so.

And so, I peel carrots, and chop celery, and stir the elixir as I whisper words of encouragement and hope over the pot with the confidence that God and the Divine and the stars and universe will respond.

Soup, as prayer.

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