Now that I’ve dispelled any lingering aspersions on my manly-manliness, I have to confess that I’m terrified of plants. I can’t even pretend that I’m only afraid of the vicious looking ones, as though that would somehow make it less ridiculous. While vine-like plants bother me most, even friendly and helpless looking plants can cause a shutter to run through my body unless I’ve specifically steeled myself for the encounter. By which I mean that I’ve literally coated myself in a thick layer of protective steel.
I suppose I could blame the movie Day of the Triffids, combined with time-lapse videos of germination and a bizarre incident in primary school when my teacher made my fellow students and me eat flowers, but vines ought to be self-evidently creepy. They can climb and destroy brick; I am softer and more nutrient rich than brick. It’s only a matter of time before plants figure this out.
Naturally I try not to give them any undue opportunities, which is to say that I avoid them in the manliest way possible. I only occasionally scream like a frightened school-girl, and only when absolutely necessary, such as when my wife asks me to tend our garden.
Recently however, my wife got sick and needed soup. I suppose I could have bought soup for her, which is something I’ve done before during her illnesses, but I wanted to surprise her with something homemade. During our last visit to her parents’ house, her mother had praised a certain variety of homemade soup for its health benefits; I had noted the recipe as fodder for some future romantic gesture. I thought that making comfort soup seemed as good a gesture as any.
Also, my wife’s mother called me on the morning of my wife’s illness and told me to make it, even giving the recipe to me again over the phone. That, in husband parlance, is called a “hint.”
I could protest that I had the idea first, thereby trying to cling to some sort of credit, but it’s good that my second Mom called, because I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t have started adding strange things to the soup out of a bored confusion. I have kitchen related issues; I believe that I was seriously considering adding eggs and crackers, or possibly flour. It’s telling that my soup-making ability involves a choice between crackers and flour.
Not surprisingly though, vegetables and not crackers comprised the bulk of the healthy and romantic soup in question, at least according to the recipe. Vegetables, which are plants. Plants, which are not my friends.
On a related note, I also don’t like knives, but making vegetable soup requires a lot of cutting. I thought about putting the vegetables into the water uncut–it works for noodles–but that wouldn’t really be soup, just ruined water. (Or tea, which is also ruined water, but more on that another time.)
Thus I found myself in our kitchen with two of my least favorite things, desperately hoping that they wouldn’t unite against me. I don’t imagine that I would react well if vegetables snatched up cutlery and started to chase me around the house.
The tomatoes were the worst. As I sliced through their squishy, squirty, disturbingly-flesh-colored goop, I had to keep from being sick myself. (I know enough to understand that nobody wants that as an ingredient.) I kept saying to myself, “Please don’t seek revenge! Please don’t seek revenge!”
All of which is why my wife came home from work and found me in the kitchen, peacefully cutting vegetables but sweating from the stress of it all. On the plus side, the soup did seem to speed her recovery and my nightmares eventually subsided.
Here’s the recipe I used, for any curious folk out there who are brave enough to trust my memory. Don’t let the vegetables know I told you. Notice the amount of chopping involved; they might hunt me down.
6 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of tomato juice
6 carrots, chopped
6 celery stalks, chopped
20 peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups of chopped green beans
1 1/2 cups of chopped broccoli
1 1/2 cups of chopped spinach
1/4 tsp baking soda
Season to taste… I added salt, pepper, thyme, sage, oregano, cilantro, onion powder, and garlic powder. I wasn’t specifically careful about how much of each.