Once upon a time,
I began, without really prefacing it with anything but the chopchopchop of my knife. I’d been chopping carrots, celery, and parsnips for ages now it felt like – ones that had been in the fridge a wee bit too long. A mix of sliced onion and garlic with a little ginger and black pepper was already sizzling in the pot. Cameron was getting whiney, and needed some attention.
Not so long ago, actually, there were two sisters. Betty, and Sandy. They lived all over Canada, but at the time of this story I think they lived in Vancouver. On Larch Street.
I gave Cameron a plate with some baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and salad dressing to dip them in. Then I stirred a couple of squirts of tomato paste into the onions, and went back to chopping and slicing.
Their dad worked for the air force. What he didn’t know about fixing and maintaining the airplanes there wasn’t worth knowing, he was one of the best. Their mom, I think, stayed home. She worked there – cleaning, making things, cooking. She cooked wonderful meals, something different each night. If they had carrots on Monday, they didn’t have them on Tuesday. If they had chicken on Tuesday, they didn’t have it again on Wednesday. So this meant that the fridge slowly filled up with leftovers. Sure, they ate them. Sometimes in lunches, sometimes they might have Tuesday’s peas leftovers on Thursday. But still, by Saturday there were all kinds of leftovers in the fridge. Peas, carrots, potatoes, chicken, a ham bone, beans, corn … little bits of lots of things.
I added the carrots, celery, and parsnips to the pot, and swooped the tomatoes into the bowl I’d kept them in. After pouring water into the pot and sprinkling in some stock powder (I’m good, but I’m not ambitious enough to make my own), I rooted through the fridge to see what else I had. Corn on the cob, gone ‘off’ a little in places. I cut away the parts I didn’t care to eat, and began slicing off the kernels. Cameron stood by my side on a chair, munching carrots and listening.
So the mother would, on Saturday afternoon, gather together all the bits and pieces and leftovers in the fridge. She made soup out of these. The girls rolled their eyes and groaned. “Fridge soup again? We’ve been eating that stuff all week!” Fridge soup was blah. Fridge soup was ordinary. Fridge soup was anything but exciting.
I tossed the tomatoes and corn into the pot, simmering away now. Next up, broccoli. I’d meant to make ‘cream’ of broccoli soup earlier in the week, but just never got around to it. Cameron’s in a no-broccoli-yuck phase, too. So it was a little yellowed and not so great looking, but still quite edible. Earlier I’d coaxed a promise out of Cameron that he’d eat every little bit of all the veggies if I made a chunky veggie soup instead of cream of whatever.
One weekend Sandy and Betty had friends come over. They spent all of Saturday playing, outside and running, trading secrets, giggling and laughing. They’d completely forgotten that Saturday is Fridge Soup Night. When their mother called them in to dinner using the clanging dinner bell,
You remember that one, right Cameron? Hanging in the condo in Comox? Yeah, that one. I added the broccoli, and a small package of chicken bits I’d frozen a while back for just this purpose, and some mashed sweet potato. Then a small container of leftover cream of chicken soup. A stir, some basil, and on went the lid.
They dashed in to wash up for dinner, and headed for the table. It was tough, but Sandy and Betty managed to not groan or complain when they saw what they were being served for dinner. That wouldn’t be polite, especially with guests staying for dinner. But their friends didn’t seem to mind. “Oh, yum! Look, there’s chicken in it today! And corn! Mrs. C, your fridge soup is the best,” the girls’ friends said. “We love coming here for dinner, it’s always something different, and so yummy!”
Cameron didn’t look so sure he believed this. I set out a bowl of cheesy gnocci to add once everything was cooked. Tucked out of sight was a box with the remainder of dry pasta in bug shapes – a surprise to pop in too. I lifted the lid and added a few shakes of worchestershire sauce for flavour. I would’ve added something for some heat too, but that would’ve rendered it inedible in Cameron’s books.
Well, the girls learned that while it always seems the same to them, it can still be yummy and full of surprises. Those girls grew up, you know. They moved to Ottawa, went to school there, and Sandy had two daughters of her own, and she made fridge soup for them while they were growing up. One lives in France now, that’s really far away across an ocean, and the other moved to Vancouver. The one in Vancouver has a little boy, who’s not so very little any longer, and you know what? She makes fridge soup for him, too.
So I probably have a few details wrong, but that’s not what matters, right? Mom, Betty, did Nana have the dinner bell back then? I remember it in the house when I was little.
While Cameron put together his big firetruck puzzle on the kitchen floor (he did it, all by himself, for the very first time!), I made fruit salad, and told him the story of Stone Soup as best as I could remember it. A quick squeeze of a lemon, and we had fresh lemonade too. Fridge soup was served with leftovers of the corn bread I made a few nights ago. Then time to set the table and wash up, and it was Fridge Soup Dinner night. I told him the story again, reminding him several times that he’d promised he would eat all the vegetables, and so he couldn’t leave the broccoli. “Do you think Nana ever put bugs in her Fridge soup,” I asked, showing him one pasta larva. He giggled, and went on a bug hunt.