I walked into my kitchen early Saturday evening, and I smelled home. It was emanating from a large blue crock pot on the stove. I breathed in deeply and sighed. My tiny little kitchen smelled and therefore felt like home, and I had warm feelings for it despite its diminutive size.
The smell was a whole cut-up chicken simmering in broth and a potpourri of onion, celery, bay leaf, carrot and thyme. The soup was a Mama's love offering for my eldest boy who was running a fever. Thankfully, it wasn't interfering with his appetite, for every time he passed the kitchen, he exclaimed, "Ummm! That smells good."
Of course it did. Fresh chicken, fresh veggies. Old memories. Homemade chicken noodle soup has been a part of my life since childhood. My mom used to make it with handmade noodles - not those fancy kind that pass through the pasta press a few dozen times, but rough, country style ones - thick, doughy and delicious. My dad was very particular about how long the soup should cook after the noodles were folded in and spread thickening flour ribbons through the pot. Off from the burner the soup must come after the last noodle entered the heat. Then it rested for only a couple minutes before my mom presented a steaming bowl to her husband.
Though Mom's chicken noodle soup nurtured me as I grew, it betrayed me when one cool autumn evening in Idaho, I hovered at the edge of the counter and asked self-consciously, "How do you make it, Mama? Can you show me?"
My mom practically giggled over the implications of my request, and I saw her grin and wink at my dad. I had never asked to be shown how to make anything. Of course she guessed what I myself barely knew: I was becoming serious about Matthew.
But not all memories can be satisfying, no matter how sweet the conjured smell. After a few years of marriage I made the soup for My Man's family, hand-rolled noodles and everything. He has four brothers, and some of them have wives and children, so I had to double the recipe, but I neglected to double the seasonings. After my unaccustomed labor, I heard low voices saying, "It's a little bland." Missing something...." "Does anyone else want the salt?"
I tried it and got a familiar sinking feeling. It was indeed bland and pathetic, like my every other attempt to impress my husband's family with my kitchen skills. Thwarted again! A curse!
But never mind. Let by-gone bland soup be by-gone. On Saturday evening I heard the noise which always signifies a happy family at dinnertime - the eager click-clack of spoons on bowls.