The intention, rather than the food, can make a meal enjoyable and memorable. So it was this Thanksgiving, when the one course was leftover split pea soup, without even bread as an accompaniment.
I had received two warm invitations to dine with friends and their families. As grateful as I was for those, something told me to hold off, because another friend, who is going through a tough time, had earlier in the week made mention in passing of wanting to come to my house for soup.
Not hearing more from Marina*, I had not prepared in advance, and being budget minded, had not gone shopping. However, I had been craving Turkish delight, so I made a reasonable substitute, using ingredients I had on hand: plain gelatin, rose water, agave nectar, and stevia.
Marina let me know she was on her way, she asked if I thought the state run liquor stores would be open and I assured her they would not be, but not to worry, because I had a bottle of Sailor Jerry rum, a recent gift from a friend. She said she could bring orange juice, and I told her not to worry, because I had enough fresh oranges to squeeze.
Then concerned about what to serve, I cast about my kitchen and what is left in my pantry, sure I could come up with something decent enough. I determined that the pineapple on the counter was perfectly ripe, and had cut away the skin and began slicing it when Marina arrived. Before long, I poured us each a frothy drink of rum mixed with fresh squeezed orange juice and chunks of pineapple whipped together in the Vitamix. It was delicious!
As Marina and I sipped our drinks and talked, I coarsely chopped an onion and caramelized it in the big soup pot, adding a scattering of cumin seed for the delightful aroma and flavor. With the onion nicely browned, I added to it the split pea soup left over from the previous day. It had congealed, so I also added some water, stirring long, to mix the ingredients well and make the soup smooth. Finally, I added a long dash of Sriracha chili sauce, and a few pinches of the black truffle sea salt I had purchased in Charleston earlier this year.
The soup turned out better than I had expected. Marina and I enjoyed it while sipping our delightfully clashing drink, as we caught each other up on where things were in our lives and what we hoped and dreamed. As the soup warmed our tummies and the rum loosened our tongues, we began to joke and laugh about our silly Thanksgiving feast.
“Oh, and I even have dessert!” I exclaimed, bringing out the substitute Turkish delight as I described how I made it. “It is kind of like rose water Jell-O Jigglers,” I told my guest, which made her laugh.
Wanting to share the best of what I had, I offered coffee to Marina, with a splash of rum. And, finally, I suggested that I make some hot cocoa from scratch, which brought an enthusiastic agreement from my friend. “We shall drink like queens,” I said, as I served the warm chocolatey drink, flavored with a touch of cinnamon and yet another splash of rum.
My friend and I marveled at our peculiar and strangely good meal, and spoke of what each of us meant to the other, about how she had inspired me, and vice versa. We shared much more laughter, and then Marina decided to post a status update to Facebook, “Rum and rose water jello jigglers with Shay Seaborne!! Happy Thanksgiving bitchezze!!” That made me laugh, and wish that I had put rum in the Turkish delight. “Ah, a better idea for next time!” I noted.
Too soon the evening grew late and my friend had to depart. Marina thanked me for my hospitality, and we agreed to see each other again soon. After she left, I turned to my kitchen, to clean up and wash dishes. I was glad that I had been able to share the evening with a good friend, especially since she had needed cheering. Also, I felt pleased that my meager pantry had offered up enough to make a strange but tasty and memorable “feast.” Finally, I felt gratitude that Marina knew where she was always welcome to share the comfort of friendship and homemade soup.