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Friday, November 26, 2010

Making Soup: Updates and Memories

Last night, as we were cleaning up from the big feast, I asked if I could take the turkey carcass home. Not surprisingly, no one fought me for it. I wrapped it up in foil nice and tight and then sealed it up in two ziploc bags. I shoved it into my big canvas bag that I was taking home that night.

Being the carless one that I now am, I had made reservations for the Amtrak about 3 weeks ago, patting myself on the back for being so smart and well-planned. I drove my scooter to the train station that morning, and in my ignorance was surprised to discover that I certainly was not the only one who came up with that idea! We crammed on board like sardines, and chugged on our way. My housemate picked me up 40 minutes later and we headed over to her family's home for a day of eating, napping, playing and watching football.

At the end of the day I packed up my bags and said turkey carcass and headed home -- thankfully on much less empty train. As I fell into bed last night I thought about how I would make soup out of my foil-wrapped bundle. It might sound crazy, but I really looked forward to it.

It was fun to think about because I knew I had nothing but time today to do so. It's a lazy holiday. I'm not one to brave the crowds and go shopping, so I'm letting the day unfold, with no attention to time. That feels like pure relaxation to me.

What I'm discovering too is that I am getting used to a slower pace. This was one of my goals in selling my car: it has put on the brakes and simplified my life.

Initially one might think that living life without a car would make things more complicated; but it actually causes the opposite, because immediately you have to accept that you do less each day when transportation requires a plan.

If you have followed my decision, you will know that this it is linked closely with my desire to eat seasonally and organically. As I said in my post on Oct 30,
...Between the way I'm choosing to eat (organically, seasonally, with very little processed food) and the way I'm getting places that I'm spending more of each day in making those two things happen. In the 21st century this might sound a little crazy. But it's working for me. I'm opting for slow and steady over fast and furious.
So today's big project was making soup. I knew it would take all day, and that seemed perfectly fine and normal to me. As I started breakfast, I also started a stock pot filled with water and my traveling companion Mr. Turkey Carcass. I also took home the celery and carrot sticks from the yesterday's afternoon munchies platter, and chopped up some of those for the stock. I added a teaspoon of garlic salt and a bay leaf, and set it all to medium low for 2 hours.

Going slow today is also a way of remembering my sweet friend Claire Carey. Her 36th birthday would have been today. Claire's slow and steady decline from a brain tumor was a study in putting on the brakes, especially in the last two years... incrementally walking more slowly, taking longer to get things done, listening carefully as words and thoughts took longer to formulate. Overall, strength waned and speed disappeared -- but her red-headed will maintained throughout. She stubbornly asserted her wishes, even when it meant minutes of waiting as she shuffled to the bathroom on her own, lifting a bowl of oatmeal out of the microwave, or getting dressed. This was life for Claire, and I needed to learn how to let go of my ever-present drive to get a lot done.

As I look back, I see that the main thing I "got done" with Claire was that I simply spent more time with her. I miss that. Her smile, her questions and her red hair (or lack thereof, depending on where she was with her treatments) are all still just right there for me. Our precious conversations on the big red couch - looking at photos, writing her email updates, crying, laughing, or praying - are great gifts I hang onto.

I thought about all that as I kept making the soup. After two hours of simmering I lifted out the carcass and set it aside on the cutting board. Meanwhile, I started roasting about 6 cloves of garlic in some olive oil, along with more diced up celery and carrots. I carefully strained all the broth through a sieve, dumping out everything left on top of the sieve. The broth was shiny, with a thin sheen of fat on top that I skimmed off.

I set myself to slowly picking off all the meat left on Mr. Turkey Carcass. This is a tedious process. But I wasn't in a hurry. I had Christmas carols cycling through the stereo: James Taylor Christmas, Jim Brickman, Westminister Abbey, Christopher Williams, George Winston. Glorious.

Kitties tail-talked around my feet as I picked away at the bird. Perhaps a piece or two landed on the floor...? I picked and tore and diced and nibbled my way through. I set aside some for a little turkey salad (diced turkey, a teaspoon of mayo and some garlic salt), and collected a surprisingly large pile of turkey for the soup. Periodically I'd push around the garlic cloves and vegetables on the stove. I set aside one clove and smeared it on some toasted bread, then piled the turkey salad on top. What a lunch!

I rooted around in the fridge for other vegetables to add: a couple of turnips left over from Fairview Gardens (it's amazing to me how long they last), a zucchini from last week's share. Chopped them up and threw them in. Added a couple of potatoes, plus a cup of arborio rice and spices: sea salt, oregano, sage, basil. This was my "manna" soup -- it would be made out of the supply God had given to me this Thanksgiving. Nothing needed to be purchased. I felt so thankful.

When I pulled the carcass out of the broth, it looked done -- used up and ready for the trash. Instead, I picked and tore and kept looking over it for scraps of turkey here and there. Regardless of how many times it turned over in my hands, I kept being surprised by little nuggets of meat hidden here and there. I thought more about Claire as I did this. What did she teach me in her last months? Slowly I realized that she taught me how to keep squeezing life out of the little scraps she was given. I watched her lose so many things to cancer over the years, but she kept at it regardless. She sent cards, she gave hugs, she dropped off flowers, she held your hand and asked questions. She gave to others until the very end, and lived life fiercely.

I will eat my day-long manna soup tonight for dinner, and be grateful. In the midst of profound loss and sadness, I am thankful. I am different for having known Claire. As I said at her memorial, I have been "changed for good." Take stock of your own life. Is it time to slow down and squeeze more out those gifts in front of you?

Today, in my devotional reading, these verses in Revelation 22 resonate with what I'm thinking about:
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Live with your eyes on heaven -- Revelation gives us a picture of what awaits us. Enjoy those gifts in front of you now as tastes of eternity. These are promises of resurrection life.

As for me, I will keep trying to "make soup" out of all of life -- taking my time and picking over those things I've received in order to enjoy them as much as possible. Feel free to join me!


  1. thanks Kelly. tearful, but thankful for your words.

  2. Thank you for this post Kelly...We are missing Claire today and making soup too. Thankful for sweet memories.

  3. Amen. A life well lived for the glory of God. We are remembering our sweet friend Claire today and making soup too. Thank you for this post Kelly!

  4. Thank you friends for reading, and for remembering. It is good to be "together" in this way. Love to each of you.

  5. Beautifully written. Wow. I wish I could share some of that soup with you.

  6. Thank you for this post Kel. It makes me smile thinking of that soup that was cooking away as we shared breakfast together. I'm so grateful for your insight and light.

  7. kel, you said it better than I could. Amen, to lazy days and doing less and going slow.