"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Friday, 5 August 2011

short story no. 1 - blue beads and ginger soup

Adi stood at her kitchen counter rhythmically peeling the sweet potatoes. She knew the recipe by heart and just as she loved to wear Sam's blue beaded necklace when she needed comfort, so too did she need to make Sam's special Sweet Potato and Ginger soup for these occasions.  It was a simple mix of ingredients and to Adi it was the ultimate comfort food.  However, as many times as she had made it on her own, the soup never tasted the same to her anymore.  Sam was not the type to have left out an ingredient or be precious about her recipes.  After all Adi had watched the soup ritual first hand many times and knew the drill.  She had helped with the chopping of the spring onions and chilies and she knew when and how to add the chicken stock. Happy times spent sitting at the small bistro table in Sam's newly renovated country kitchen.  A steamy, warm kitchen with doors that opened on to her vine covered patio and lush garden.  Sometimes they drank wine, sometimes champagne and other times a new herbal tea experiment.  They were very versatile when together.  Cooking and chopping and talking about anything, everything and nothing and in particular. Waiting for tired boys to come back from rugby matches or guests to arrive for the famous "soup, cheeses, dips and bread" music evenings.  There were other soups in Sam's repertoire but none that in "Master Chef" terms were her "Signature Dish" and none that Adi enjoyed more than the Sweet Potato and Ginger combination.

Four years had passed since Sam's premature death and the soup had been attempted by Adi many times since.  Everyone always enjoyed the fragrant broth and complimented Adi on it but, to her, it was not the same, no matter how hard she tried.  She continued to make it because she loved the smell of the ginger and that smell filled her house and head with memories.  The pot of boiling soup made her kitchen steamy and homely and made her feel warm and fuzzy inside even although she was no longer sitting in the country kitchen sipping wine and sharing secrets at the small bistro table.

All her family were in Cape Town for once and coming to supper tonight.  The table had been set in advance, the fire in the lounge was lit, red wine bottles opened.  She was unusually well organised. Having plenty of time to spare she decided to run herself a bath.  She lit the fragrant, seldom used candles and added the very special, also seldom used, Charlotte Rhys bath foam to the water.  Bathing was not normal practice for Adi but she had the time and her bones felt cold.  She poured a glass of wine with lots of added ice, as she liked it, turned up the music and stepped into the hot fluffy water. As she settled back she felt the warm water relaxing her.  The steam from the bath rose and condensed on the icy cold wine glass.  As the cold droplets ran down the glass and fell on her chest, so too did the hot tears begin to run down her cheeks.  She did not feel particularly sad and was not exactly sure what had pre-empted the tears.  Crying was unusual these days for Adi.  She cried more for happy reasons than sad ones and put this down to "mixed up hormones" that came with her age.  She put her glass down and lay back in the water.  She let her head and hair fall backwards into the hot water.  Under the water it didn't matter what were tears and what was water.  After coming up for air a couple of times and then re-immersing herself, she eventually surfaced from the foam and tears and reached for her glass. The wine was pleasantly tart on her palate and the cold liquid hitting the back of her throat was a stark contrast to the heat of her body and the bath.  She lay there soaking and crying and sipping wine, watching her wet fingers get wrinkled from the time spent in the water.

The shrill alarm of the oven timer brought Adi back to reality.  She got out the bath, put on her fluffy, towelling gown and headed to the kitchen to remove the pudding from the oven.  She took extra time getting ready, even put on a bit of lipstick and decided to wear the blue beaded necklace.  It was still on her bedside table from the day before.  All her favourite people started arriving and the house got noisier and noisier.  The kitchen was warm and steamy and happy, as she liked it to be.

A little while later as everyone sat around the table with their bowls of soup and crusty bread, Adi once again felt warm and fuzzy inside.  It was not often that you had everyone you loved most in one room at the same time.  As she took her first mouthful of the Sweet Potato and Ginger soup she knew she had done it.  She had got it right.  Four years of trying and at last she was happy with the result.  It was perfect.  Her raised her hand and gave the blue beads a gentle, knowing squeeze.


  1. Oh - I needed a reason to cry to night.. and you did just that. Comfort food, loved ones - sometimes life is just too complicated to cope with. I miss all that so much - uncomplicated living.

  2. Lovely Jen! You got me blubbering too. You write beautifully!