Three Soups


Gazpacho.  Olive-skinned women blanching tomatoes, dicing peppers, chopping cucumbers, reaching across and over and around each other, laughing and singing and cooking all at the same time.  Glasses filled and refilled with the briny local sherry, as true a reflection of the Andalusian sun and sea as the one that passes across the rippled surface of the glazed tile porch.  The sprawling house perched high above the docks bursts with aromatics: wood smoke and brandy-dipped cigars, Jerez vinegar and smoldering cayenne, cedar planks and honeysuckle vines.  The heat of the dining hall cut by the cascade of chilled soup into barro clay bowls.  Tiny wedges of bread topped with olive tapenade soak up the last drops.

Mulligatawny.  In a cast iron pot it fumes and sputters.  Cardamom and coriander, chicken and cumin, whole cloves of garlic simmering for hours.  Onions and curry leaves frying in ghee, a tiny woman with long fingers stirring and tasting, filling the tiny kitchen with anticipation.  Huge mounds of basmati rice appearing from nowhere, two-handled pot after pot after pot.  Pushing back offers of assistance from aunts with a silver-toothed smile, and a shake of a wooden spoon at the daughters.  Cousins waiting in the central hall and brothers in the front verandah and uncles spilling out onto the street, so much family they must eat in two shifts, three peacock daughters in green and gold saris washing the bowls and spoons twice per night.

Campbell’s Chicken and Stars.  Bought with bottled water and the local newspaper at a convenience store, conveniently open all night as per the sign.  Choice of can preceded by complicated negotiations conducted primarily through giggles and pointing.  Then, a realization and the purchase of a can opener as well.  Finally back in the dorm room their soup is furtively heated on the desktop.  The shiny immersion coil, intended for tea, tests a turquoise porcelain pot, a thoroughly washed former keeper of flowers.  Simmering water becomes jaundiced with fat, a floating galaxy of pasta soon to be served, less than a meal but more than another snack.  Two young women with identical plastic spoons sit too close together and ask each other if the soup is done.  Two dark-skinned faces hover over the pot as it begins to bubble, alike and yet so very different, away so far and gone so long their skin no longer smells of the spices of their mothers.  
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