Quick! Before the leaves are all gone! Make some soup and pack yourself a picnic! At least that’s what we did on Saturday, right in the middle of a day when we should have been getting ahead with work projects and, I don’t know, balancing the checkbook. Even though it was raining and the skies were gray, we practiced hope by loading up a picnic basket, hopping in the car, and driving 20 minutes east where, miraculously, we found ourselves in the crisp fall day that was The Hermitage.
EARLER TONIGHT, I FOLLOWED TIM OUT OUR KITCHEN DOOR and down the driveway to the garage, where we both got in the car. He turned the key in the ignition, looked at me and asked, “Where are we going?” and I shrugged with a “Anywhere you want!” So he backed out passed the chain link fence where our neighbor’s flowers grow and the giant bush sprouts a spider’s web longer than my height, pointing the car anywhere and nowhere, warm Tennessee air flowing through our open windows.
We followed I-24 West to Shelby, which is a confusing thing to say because Shelby is East Nashville, and we live in South Nashville, but to get there you take I-24 West. In East Nashville, we cruised down Gallatin and eventually down the street where I used to live, passed my old yellow bungalow that I already have a hard time remembering, just over two years after I left. And somewhere between the piece of pumpkin vegan cake we ended up sharing from Wild Cow on the Jeni’s patio and the soup bones we ended up buying at the grocery store in Green Hills, I turned to Tim and said the thing to which a lot of you will probably relate. “I have to tell you something,” I said to him in the now-darkness of this September Thursday night. “I’m just not sure what’s true about health anymore.”
Tim lived in Nashville when I met him, on the first floor of a large, yellow house at the top of a hill. His roommates were his older brother, Nathan, a big-time Bengals fan who looks enough like Tim that strangers still confuse them, and their long-time friend Jared, a red-headed thinker who wears grandpa sweaters and had been with them since before 2007, when they’d all relocated to Tennessee from their Ohio hometown. Both those guys still live in the yellow house today, now with a new roommate. Conveniently, it’s less than three miles from the white brick one Tim and I share, which makes us practically neighbors still. And on Wednesdays, Nathan comes over after work, before the three guys get together to talk and pray and read entire books of the Bible in one sitting, like Hosea or Amos or I Timothy, and we have dinner.
This past Wednesday, over a hodge-podge dinner that featured the day’s disaster of cajun fish (a story for another time), Tim and Nathan and I got talking about their shared bachelor days and the way they ate in them, as 20-something guys who liked real food but, by most people’s standards, couldn’t afford it. Tim was unemployed, Nathan worked for a local nonprofit and Jared only worked part-time—so, while they look back now and see, like Tim and I in our shared life do, their needs always being met, they also remember often feeling like money was tight.
Nathan, 13 months Tim’s senior, is not the kind of guy to hand out recipes (although, I should say, he makes a killer guacamole, dresses salad as well as any Mallon and, when you hand him a fresh-baked cookie, will be able to pick out the unique ingredient you’ve added in just minutes flat). So when Tim asked him Wednesday night, at our table, what we should make in our kitchen next, you can imagine my surprise when, instead of a joke or a pipe dream, he began reciting directions for the meal he and Jared have down pat, the one Tim’s cooked more times than he can count, a meal on regular rotation in their roommate days and since then. It’s a meal familiar to any budget-conscious real-food-eating soul who considers all the grocery options and leaves with what’s most economical.
He started telling me about lentil stew.
Of all the reasons for blogging, there’s no contest, the greatest fringe benefit is the people, this amazing community of thoughtful individuals who are interested in other people’s stories and find enjoyment in good food (and sometimes even become real-life friends, inviting us into their homes). Does it get old to hear we’re so thankful for each of you out there? Because we are. We’re so inspired by other bloggers, and we’re so blessed by those of you who read here. In fact, just as we get to know certain bloggers by following their sites, we’ve found we get to know certain readers by their consistent comments—we start to remember so-and-so as the one who likes gluten-free recipes or the one who always has something encouraging to say. One such reader is the ever kind and supportive Marie Matter of the Little Kitchie blog, who inspired today’s recipe for creamy, comforting tortilla soup so good, I had tears in my eyes while I ate it yesterday, and not just because of the kick of cayenne.
You should know I didn’t set out, at the beginning of this week, to bring you two back-to-back soup recipes.
I don’t know about you guys, but, for me, the days that follow Thanksgiving are, no contest, the least inspired days, cooking-wise, all year long.