Last night I sat down to eat a bowl of soup. I looked at it for awhile. Without the sprout and pepper garnish, it could have looked a little like a tetrapack cream soup, maybe, at first glance, even something from a can. This soup, though, had a different history.
Two years ago, I made a celery root soup. I cut the gnarly top of the root away and planted it in the ground. It grew a bunch of celery stalks, flowered and produced seeds. I didn't pay a lot of attention beyond cutting stalks once in awhile. The next year, a small forest of celery grew in the area. More than I needed...so, while cleaning up the garden I dug out some roots to make a celery soup. Digging, cleaning and chopping takes awhile, but the stock was being made, so there was time.
I love organic chickens that have the neck, heart and other organs tucked into a little bag inside the chicken cavity, as they make the best beginning to a stock. While the chicken is roasting, all sorts of veggies go into the stock on top of the stove. Carrot tops and pieces of carrot, vegetable ends, like asparagus stalks, swiss chard, garlic, onion, celery stalks and yellow beets. It cooks for awhile, there is a roasted chicken dinner, then the bones and pan drippings (minus the fat) are added, along with the chicken stuffing: bay leaves, ginger, onion, citrus. It simmers some more.
We go out, the stock cools. We return, the stock is strained and used to cook the celery root. Some carrots, hjiki and red onion are added to balance the root flavour. The seaweed has enough saltiness in it. The herbs from cooking the chicken are enough flavour.
The vegetables are cooked in the broth, but are left to cool and blend while we work outside.
There is a pattern here of attention and inattention, but during the times of inattention, change still takes place. At this stage, the flavour deepens.
By the time we are hungry, all that is left to do with the soup is to blend it into a rich, velvety smooth texture, reheat and garnish with a mixture of sprouts. A high powered blender like Vita-mix makes a velvety texture).
This is why I'm sitting looking at the soup. It looks just like a tetrapack soup, but it is so much more. There was a time in my life in which I thought that if I could just take a daily pill for nourishment, I'd be happy. Has this been a waste of time? Could I have accomplished more if I had used the time differently?
What else could have given me such connection with the land, such continuity through the seasons, such sureness about growth and change and reinvention?
Because I had invested in a piece of gnarly root by planting it in the soil instead of throwing it into the garbage, two years later I was eating this soup. An investment, with a quality stock, yielding delicious returns. My stock market is either the farmer's market or my own back yard. No downturn here, only new spring growth.
It's difficult to eat soup and laugh at the same time. This is the best return on an investment.