The weather forecasters are doing nothing but apologise.

More rain. More weather.

I’m making a lot of soup. My soups aren’t inventive: a combination of carrots, leeks, onions, lentils and something else that’s green. Depends what’s in the veg compartment in the fridge. Sometimes I add a little bit of chopped bacon. Herbs if the garden is growing any.

My soup has lumps. It never sees a liquidiser. (The liquidiser, poor thing, is somewhere in the dark recesses under the stairs.)

My very first soup contained butter, onions, carrots, potatoes, lentils and a stock cube. I was a little nervous about it. I was staying in a cottage in Wales with my boyfriend. From lessons at school, I’d learned things I cooked went wrong. So I cautiously followed a recipe in a book and, to my amazement, an amazingly good soup emerged. I didn’t know lentils did that. I never looked back.

I know I make good stock, because I keep simmering bones. I like the word ‘bone’. It sounds (to me) like the thing it is. I use a bone folder to sharpen the creases in cards. Matt uses one to flatten the new pamphlets (Chapter Eight went out last week and it needed a lot of flattening). Bones pop up in so much of what we say. They can be rude, ancient, bare, idle. Bones are fundamental.

She won’t make old bones. Let’s make no bones about it. Not a mean bone in her body. Work my fingers to the bone. Chilled to the marrow. Brrrrr.

Boil me some bones, mother, boil me some bones.

Making soup is good for thinking. It’s the chopping of the different bits into different shapes and sizes. It takes close attention but doesn’t use much of your brain. And then when it’s cooking, the smell cheers the house. And ready so quickly! Three cheers for soup!

The combination of soup and grim weather takes me back to Frances Cornford’s poem, one of my favourites of all time. Hell’s bells! I have to stop chopping to go and look it up. Why haven’t I got this one by heart? Here it is.

Late Home

The winds are out in the abysm of night;
The blown trees stoop,
But man invented fire and candle-light,
And man invented soup.

And now I can cheat. Because this week Anthony Wilson chose to write about another of my favourite soup poems, by Michael Laskey, from his book The Tightrope Wedding. Leek and potato for Michael.

All I need do is give you the link.


5 thoughts on “MY SOUP HAS LUMPS”

  1. I’m with you on the soup front – though I think you need to get the liquidizer out from under the stairs in order to appreciate the full scope possible. I read Anthony Wilson’s blog post yesterday (I’m a fan of his, particularly admiring the enormous variety of what he references) and my first reaction on reading the Laskey poem was “yer-what?” but then looking at the title again and the ending I found my way into it. It’s one of those quietly seductive poems, like someone in the corner of the room that you find yourself thinking of the next day. And the variations of rhythm in the lines are lovely. Back on the soup front, and to encourage you to get the liquidizer out, I recommend a celeriac and apple soup – I use the Books for Cooks recipe but there’s a similar one from Angela Hartnett on The Books for Cooks version adds a carrot in the first phase and a quarter of Savoy cabbage, shredded, with the bacon – you simmer the cabbage and bacon in the soup for ten minutes. This gives you smoothness and lumps – why not have it all?

  2. I love this poem too, Nell. Frances Cornford is good. She wrote what I think is a great war poem.
    ‘Parting in Wartime.

    How long ago Hector took off his plume,
    Not wanting that his little son should cry,
    Then kissed his sad Andromache goodbye –
    And now we three in Euston waiting room.’

    All the historical futility summed up in seven words.
    Sorry! this is not about soup. But I’m sure Andromache did make soup.

  3. Anthony, your soup sounds excellent and I know I’d like it. If I ever have a gap when I’m not thinking hardest about the next publication and therefore reading only poems on paper, I’ll get to that recipe. I’ve always thought poems and recipes have a lot in common.

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