My Soup Hero

He is the Chef at the Flying Monkey.  I haven’t asked permission to use his name, so for the moment I will call him Sam.  He routinely does magic with ingredients from the ordinary to the sublime.  Sometimes the ingredients have come from a “friend” in some exotic place (chili’s from the Napa Valley of chili’s in Mexico); sometimes they are a local discovery.  They are always fresh and balanced in perfect proportion, accompanied by pieces of bread freshly baked by Sam himself early that morning.  It is not ordinary bread.  The same care and carefully selected, often quite unexpected ingredients, combine to bake into exactly the right accompaniment to that day’s soup.

I marvel at the creativity that Sam invests in everything he prepares.  I remember at some point discovering just how hard it is to produce a meal that is edible and at the right temperature for consumption when mealtime arrives.  While I often lament my lack of ability in meal preparation, I have often written in great detail when I have had some sort of culinary adventure.  Today was one of those days.

Today’s food preparation was sort of a religious experience.  There was a contemplative dimension wound throughout the day.  This morning offered a worship experience with music and rituals and spoken word and friendly conversation afterward.  The food preparation had been on my mind for the last couple of daysadding anticipation to the list of ingredients.  I still had on the counter a couple of lentil soup mixes I intended to combine a few weeks ago.  There was Steak soup mix in the pantry ripe for flavoring a ton of veggies that had been gathering in my fridge.    I had some vacuum sealed (still good) beef in a couple of different forms in the freezer.  Each soup called for beef.

Here is where the Spiritual, Contemplative dimension comes in.  As I was cutting vegetables in preparation for putting them in one of the pots, I remembered a fellow named Fr. Ed Hayes who has written a number of books suggesting ways to pray and meditate while doing routine tasks, whether sitting at the computer, doing the dishes, and in some settings surprised me.  There are monastic traditions that urge doing even the tiniest task with awareness, thinking about that task’s place in the grand scheme of things or just doing the task without cluttering the mind with a dozen other things.  I cut those green peppers slowly and methodically, enjoying the deep green contrasting shiny exterior and rough interior, the feel of the slices in my hand.  No I have not finally gone over the edge completely.

I put on a two CD’s of contemporary interpretations of ancient chants done by New York Polyphony and Kansas City’s Octarium.  Then a couple of Mozart CD’s continued the accompaniment to my contemplative food preparation.  So much of the time when I am doing tasks like that, I try to get to the end of the task as quickly as possible.  Not this time.  It was a good day.  Admittedly, my contemplative mode did not make it all the way through the clean-up, but even that part of the day was satisfying.

The bonus is that I now have fourteen individual meal-sized portions of soup in the freezer (7 of each kind) and enough for two or three suppers in the fridge after having had a bowl of each for supper this evening.  I realize that living by myself and being retired allows me the option of doing contemplative cooking.  When a person is responsible for getting a meal on the table for hungry family members, contemplative cooking is a luxury that most often is out of reach.  It is because life is so full of tasks tugging at us that it seems worth it to try transforming some of the simple, necessary, mindless ones into opportunities for nurturing one’s spirit.

Three of Ed Hayes books in particular suggest prayers and blessings for the ordinary bits and pieces of daily life.  They are Pray All Ways, Secular Sanctity, and Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

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2 Responses to My Soup Hero

  1. Octarium says:

    Thanks for the mention. We’d love to know what you listened to!

    • PeterT says:

      It was the Modern Masters CD. I marvel at your technique, the clarity of the sound (and of course the perfect intonation). Admittedly, some of what I heard was a stretch for me, a healthy one, but nonetheless a stretch.Mygo to music is early Baroque and Renaissance. I sang in a chant group for three of the fouryears at Seminary, somusic that emerges from early chants is especially intriguing to me(had a class in Solemnes style of Gregorian Chant while at theSem). Iwould like to get aCD of yours that might beless of a stretch for meas abalance to the one I have. I got the Modern MastersCD after hearing you at St. Mark’s Lutheran on Troost. Peter Tremain (retired Lutheran Pastor)

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