By Tilly Spetgang
Of The Bulletin Staff
TWO SUMMERS AGO, when we were staying in a sea captain's house turned into an old country inn, at lunch one day my husband and I were served an unusual soup. It was a thin, aromatic broth with slices of zucchini simmered in it.
When we returned home we successfully recreated it. Pleased with our success, we began to build and change the soup, until it turned out to be what the family calls Zook Soup, a soup of our own design.
A few days ago I was standing in my kitchen, slicing mushrooms and tomatoes for the soup, glancing out the window from time to time at a purple grackle having a bath in a puddle, when suddenly I realized I was very happy.
The thought startled me.
I am accustomed to being busy. Tired. Excited. Pleased.
I am frequently depressed.
There are times when I am vaguely unhappy with something or someone.
I tested myself. Was I lightly happy, chiffon scarf drawn over my psyche?
No. This was a pure, flooding feeling. A sweet peace. Song from my soul.
Was it the vegetables?
Fragrant onion, the red wetness of tomato? Their mysteriously programmed perfection? Or was it being in the kitchen, feet bare on a glossy floor, surrounded by cookbooks and cacti, feeder of the family?
I heard laughter, soft, relaxed, coming from the family room, and realized it had been going on for a while. Valeri was in there with a group of her friends, boys and girls, some of them putting a puzzle together, others polishing silver, a task that I had suggested and they had eagerly accepted, an hour ago.
The Phone Calls
Perhaps it was the phone calls. There had been two.
A young friend was anxious to share the new man in her life.
"I've been bicycling with him in the park," she exulted. "Playing tennis. Talking. And kissing. Do you know how I feel?" Yes. I know.
The other call was from Irwin, husband of 18 years.
He spoke of the small things in his day. I listened to the man, remembering the lean, dark-haired boy who walked into the newspaper office where I worked and my thinking, "Oh, I like that." I haven't changed my mind.
So there I stood, incredibly middle-aged, pained by nuclear power, inflation, pollution and other modern whimsies, overweight and aware of the ticking heart, washed with a golden euphoria on a day no different from others.
I said, "Thank you," out loud, and went back to Zook Soup.
Perhaps you might like to try our soup, a simple, filling feast. The recipe is for six to eight portions.
Put the contents of two cans of chicken rice soup, and the same amount of water, into a pot. Pell and slice either two very large zucchini or four smaller ones. Slice two large onions and one-half pound of mushrooms and add to soup mixture. Top off with two large tomatoes in chunks. Then season with a heavy hand. I use garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Aunt Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up Salt.
Bring to a boil and simmer actively for about 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy.