A Steamy Soup

I begin to make a big soup, the kind that steams the kitchen windows on a winter’s afternoon, when the wind is blaring and the furnace thumps on.

First beef broth, then a dash of sarcasm, then some dry wit (available only in specialty stores). Add a dash of snark and a half cup of wistfulness, which I find is  good for the hair. Splash in some red wine. Sprinkle in some Viagra, and I’m done.

Ha, gotcha. Just kidding on the Viagra, though Campbell’s Soup could corner the Boomer market with a Viagra and Beans broth. I mean, who are we kidding. Beans are very important to American men.

Steve Searles, my co-author and Sierra sidekick, told me the other day that Native Americans see positive thoughts as tiny prayers.

I see soups as tiny prayers. Were I a Campbell’s exec, I’d create new genres of soup. Soups for lovers. Soups for sports fans. Christmas soups. Summer soups. Soups for a crisp autumn day.

Dog soups. Cat soups. Surfer soups. Soups to savor when you’re restoring a ’56 Chevy in a chilly garage, no sunlight, when it’s too early to start in with the beer.

In truth, that’d probably be the Boomer soup.

As my pal Miller once told me, “You have a million ideas — none of them any good. You’re also a very bad businessman.

“And you’re not as tall as you carry yourself.”

All pretty true.

The other day I suggested to my buddy Brian (aka Julius Caesar, for the avarice and the togas) that Pfizer or Moderna should be working on a Covid vaccine in Gummy Bear form. The kids would love it, and so would many of the Chardonnay Moms.

Boom! An entire epidemic wiped out by pandering to children and bored suburban moms with drinking issues.

(Our little town’s joke du jour: What do you get when you combine wine with dinner? A winner!).

I also told Brian that, were I to start a football league, I would model it on the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by their fans. No egocentric, dysfunctional families at the helm. No mad billionaire trying to rob taxpayers to finance new stadium/mansions.

Just Bob and Juan and Barbie from down the block. Folks who shop at Home Depot. Folks who fix their own faucets. That’s who would own the teams. As with the Packers, they’d have stock certificates they could show their friends over beer.

Best of all, no team would ever again abandon its fans for a better deal.

Whatever the reason, the Packers are perennial contenders. My guess? God loves their business model.  

Back to making soup, because that’s my real gift. I’m making soup for my new pal Suzanne, in lieu of roses. As a benefaction. Soup Suzanne, warm and garlicky.

I add a leek. Should’ve seen me in the vegetable aisle, looking up leeks on my phone.

All I really know about leeks is that my parents used to have a humorous cookbook titled “First You Take a Leek” with an illo of a cook taking an arcing spritz. I always found it rather louche, given my parents’ solid Midwestern values.

The only person who used off-color language in our family was my father, and he cursed almost constantly, reams of multisyllabic swear words flowing from his mouth like news items off an old AP teletype machine.

He certainly never used words like louche.

Dad worked in television, where the F-bomb was invented. Dad could swear in Russian, he could swear in Greek. His best performances came when he was driving the car.

As I may have mentioned, my father invented road rage, which will always be his legacy.

“Should Dad maybe trademark road rage,” I once asked my mom.

“Good idea, sweetie,” she said. “Now shut up so I can hear your father swear.”

My French mama, in her heels and pleated skirts, was appalled by his language. Maybe turned on a little too – you know the French. They had three kids, so something had to be working. They were like Rob and Laura Petrie, except they drank more and ate far too much red meat. But they sure had fun.

I remember hearing them both snore contentedly each night, three rooms away.

Back in the ’60s, everybody had fun! It was a happier time, at least till the hippies ruined it. Look, personally I loved the hippies. No one wore much underwear. Even the women had beards.

Google “hippies” some time. Baffled, idealistic and always a little high. Straight out of Tolkien.

Now look at American men, with their workout routines and vegan diets. Zzzzzzzzz. The other day, even I bought steel-cut oats. Never mind that most everything is cut with steel – name one thing that isn’t.

Yet, there is something kind of soothing/bucolic about the phrase “steel-cut oats.” Reminds me of those old-time TV nutritionists in suspenders, who stood in wheat fields and told us what to eat. Euell Gibbons. Orville Redenbacher.

To be honest, the steel-cut oats are – like all health foods — frightfully awful. Really, what they taste like is pencil shavings, or the stuff you’d clean from behind the couch, were you to ever clean behind your couch, which you shouldn’t until you move. That’s what moving is for.

Anyway, I wouldn’t really recommend steel-cut oats. Turns out they stay in your teeth for weeks, and lord knows what they do to your colon. In fact, stay away from grains altogether.

Salmon is good, I’ll vouch for that. Tater tots too. Chicken wings, chili, cheeseburgers, all the obvious health foods. Find me a 100-year-old person, and I can almost guarantee they eat a burger now and then.

One thing they don’t eat? Steel-cut oats.

I’d also recommend this soup I’m making, which has chunks of bison (tastes like beef, but leaner. Mostly, it was on sale).

I crack a window, it’s now so steamy in here. Now I’m steamy and the TV is steamy. Even Suzanne is a little steamy, which is unusual for her. Usually, she is so ethereal.

Speaking of ethereal…

On TV, the snow is swirling in Lambeau and the Rams are winning in Tampa Bay. The Chiefs and Bills are doing a crazy waltz in Kansas City – first one team leads, then the other. “The Kansas City Invitational,” as one chirpy writer put it.

Folks diss football because it’s so brutal … almost barbaric. It leaves men crippled, yet so does life. So does construction, mining and farm work, probably more than football. So does sitting in an office chair for 45 years.

I can hardly defend football. It is ornery, blue-collar work that happens to pay very well.

Thank gawd for it. These games are our bonfires. They are our primal screams. I stir the soup or the chili. I sip maybe a beer.

If the Chicago Bears aren’t in it – and they never are – I root almost exclusively for the underdog.

Last weekend was the best weekend of football America has ever seen. Three of the four underdogs won. And all four games came down to the final play.

What’s good for the NFL is good for America.

Whew, that sounds too boosterish for such a corporate and brutal game. Your honor, I retract that.

On second thought, keep it. Football is the only thing that unites us anymore.

Sure, I pine for baseball; the food is a little better, you can work a tan. As with church, everybody pretty much sits the entire time. We older fans value that.

Yet, for better or for worse, the only sport that really matters anymore is football, our national soup.

It steams us; it softens our ragged souls.

This soup was easy. I cubed a pound of bison (or beef), steamed some cauliflower and some sliced mushrooms and a chopped leek. Added them together, splashed in some beef broth, some red wine, some minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste. You don’t need too many of the cauliflower florets, just a few. Serve over rice. Top with cilantro. Or, drink the wine straight and order a pizza. That’s really good too. Almost better. Cheers!

7 thoughts on “A Steamy Soup

  1. Thank you. Always enjoy your writing and wit. Your writing is so good your high school English teacher probably told you it was terrible.

  2. Enjoyed learning about your dad. You talk about your French maman from time to time, but this is the first time I remember you describing him in detail. Rob and Laura, contentedly snoring away. Love it. Growing up in the 50s and mostly 60s was the best. Thanks for the reminder. And please fill us in on more of Miss Catty Cakes’ adventures too!

  3. Another winner…both the column and the quote (wine/dinner…classic!) Did you find any more Suburbia books? I gave mine to a friend awhile back, bad move, gone forever, I fear. Need to replace if possible! You make me laugh and make my day. Will try the soup recipe!

  4. Ahhhh, the appetitive mouth. It somehow seems to me that the most essential ingredient in soup is steam. And in the instance cited, the steam from Suzanne. She who is experienced as an ethereal broth of a girl—so add that. Then sip, in that most offhand midwinter American way—wineglass or beer balanced between the fingers, and play the beautiful game no tv tableau can ever fully replicate: that breezy, sonorous, delicate dance of enraptured violence which almost always comes down to the wire unresolved. And there you have it. As they say, “ you’re in the soup”, and who would not want to savor, let loll on the tongue, juice the lips as it were, such a deliciously warm liquidity on a cool breezy Winter L.A. Sunday afternoon.? The steam riseth, and like the wind off the lake into the stands at Lambeau stadium, taketh your breath away. Now that’s soup !

  5. My 90 year-old mom just told me a football story. She had just delivered me (in the hospital) but was so excited about the Chicago Bears playing the New York Giants at Wrigley Field for the NFL Championship (four years before the 1st Super Bowl) she kept dashing out to the hallway to hear the game on a small radio as there was no good reception from her room. And they won 14-10 in frigid 10 degrees. She said it was “so exciting” and smiled big as she recollected the memories. Of course I asked, “me or the game?” “Both,” she said. 😉

  6. Only you, Chris, could start a column with LEEKS, end it with FOOTBALL, then soup again, and make it seamless and delightful. I was just fine—until I read the last two words—and just burst into tears. Such a mensch you are!🤗🤗‼️

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