[Dinner, July 2008.]

Of course I love to cook, but sometimes I love even more when I don’t have to do so — say when I’ve woken up before 6a, worked most of the day, run 4 miles, and then using what remains of my energy to plug away on something else. Tonight I am very lucky to be sitting here with the classical music station pealing out into my clean-swept living room, swirling a spoon through a steaming bowl of my mom’s vegetable soup, and eating good bread and cheese for dinner.

The thing was: I cooked a lot (and I mean a lot) on Friday and Saturday. I didn’t even make things that were overly complicated, but I had six people coming over for lunch and I wanted to make great use of my Saturday market as well as a few delicious, seasonal fruits (plums, peaches) — so I did. There was not a scrap leftover, either, which was just as well because yesterday we skipped town in the afternoon and drove over the bridge into Marin County, with a detour through Samuel P. Taylor Park (bypassing the swimming hole, unfortunately, which I have heard from a reputable source was full of salmon; also, it was very warm, and a good swimming day).

[Tomales Bay, June 2008.]

I went for a bike with my friend out to Arch Rock, which is about 4.5 miles from the Bear Valley trail head in the National Seashore — I had already run in the morning after not a whole lot of sleep (see: Rome, mild obsession with) and really wanted not much more than to flake out on the deck with a gin and tonic and the dog. But! I am also nearly powerless in the face of a challenge (or even an encouragement; in this case, riding a bike in the almost-dusk out to the coast). I love riding bikes but rarely do so, which is a shame. I don’t love riding in the city, and what little time I do have to exercise I prefer to spend it running, or in yoga class.

So I was a little not-as-enthused as I could have been, but once we started out through the cool forest I wondered why I had ever not wanted to go. The trail is mostly flat except for a small hill leading up to Divide Meadow, and then downhill to the rack where we threw the bikes while we walked the last mile out to Arch Rock. Sometimes it can be grey and windy out there but sometimes it is balmy and clear, and you can hear the seals barking on the rocks out to sea. Last night was one of those nights. I craned my neck to see around the curve of the land to my left, trying to see Wildcat Camp where I’ll be camping in a few weeks, and thought about how I can’t wait to fall asleep with the sound of the ocean in my ears (and I also hoped it would be as warm and sweet as it was last night).

And though I’m thoroughly enjoying my quiet Monday night, I wish a little bit I was still out there right now watching the sun go down …

[Mom’s soup, July 2008.]

But back to this soup: this is my mom’s special vegetable soup that she always manages to bring in to me when she comes for a visit (and sometimes, if I’m very lucky, she’ll tuck away a container into my fridge when I’m out of town and it’s waiting for me when I return). When I lived in Washington, DC, and would come home for a visit my first meal at home would often be a bowl of this soup — and I couldn’t wait for it. It meant so many things to me: California, my little hometown, the holidays, summer vacation, bittersweet homecoming because even though I loved a lot of my life on that other coast, I missed Northern California terribly.

I don’t have the recipe, and honestly, I don’t want it! I don’t think I could make it as well. The base is vegetable broth and tomatoes, and it’s full of good vegetables like: green beans, leeks, corn, garlic with some kidney beans and broken up fettucine to round it out. It smells wonderfully when it’s cooking, too — savory and sweet (from a dash of honey) all at once. It is home to me, and is perfect for tonight, when I’m sleepy and and nearly ready for bed. If only I hadn’t finished it all off in one go …

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  1. I can attest to the curative powers of this mom’s soup, which has become a staple in my minuscule arsenal of recipes.

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