My Saturday morning fills with the comforting aroma of vegetable and barley soup, bubbling companionably on the stove. Making this soup is a turning point for me, signalling the transition into winter.

Chopping the larger vegetables into chunks for my ancient Kenwood food processor is easy; not so peeling garlic cloves. But my torn fingernails are recovering at last, thanks to Roch at the Lighthouse Health Hub. As I slice, I wonder who he will pass the baton to for dispensing the wise, informed advice I take for granted?

Today I’m missing parsnips – they’re just not available. To compensate, I add butternut pumpkin, and a bit extra of the other vegetables.

Food has been something of an issue in our house for several months. Ken never took to the home delivered meals I order now. I’ve narrowed my personal selection to vegetarian, Asian and Middle Eastern and intersperse them with my cooking. Immunotherapy has played havoc with Ken’s taste buds, and he prefers small, bland meals. His unsuccessful cancer treatment ceased many weeks ago, but side effects (like an excruciating itch), continue to manifest. Lately though, he’s begun asking for meals with more ‘kick’. I respond cautiously, afraid of overstepping the mark – but it is a good sign.

In another foray into domesticity, daughter Vino takes me to our local homewares centre. I’ve been shopping online for ages now, so what a delight it is for me to be able to browse at length to restock my linen cupboard! Vino can’t resist picking up the odd find to add to the pile. And we get goosebumps at the counter when the sales assistant glances at my credit card. ‘Ruth Cotton!’ she exclaims. No, it’s not because she’s just read my memoir – it’s her mother’s name. ‘I’m never come across that before, in my whole life’, she says. ‘Say hello to her for me’, I urge. ‘I will, I’ll be talking to her later!’ she replies enthusiastically, still a little flustered.

We move on to another store, feeling easy and relaxed. I choose a minimalist dish drainer to replace my failing one. It is not until I get it home that I appreciate how cleverly designed the new one is. Not just elegant but also very functional – the best I’ve had.

And maybe it doesn’t fit under domesticity, but I’m reading more books lately. I’ve had a stack on reserve at the library, and suddenly they’re coming through. Thanks to a writer friend Debbie, I’m a member of Goodreads, so I even write the occasional review. That helps me clarify what I think of a book and committing something to paper (or cyberspace) reinforces my memory of what I’ve read.

Ah, memory! Coming up next week is my 75+ Medicare assessment, due every two years. No doubt it will include a short-term memory test. I’m memorising poems again, and hope that this will help. Last time, I got the season wrong. I vow not to make that mistake again – even though my big pot of vegetable and barley soup is a delicious foretaste of winter. And as Ken and I enjoy our simple lunch of soup and wholegrain toast, I don’t miss the tang of parsnip. In fact, we agree, this is one of the best soups I’ve made.

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12 Responses

  1. There is nothing like home cooking Ruth. I don’t do a lot of it either, just cooking simple evening meals most days. It’s good when a recipe works out so well!

    1. I have tried so many packaged, fresh and tinned soups, thinking there must be a perfect solution! But I agree, nothing comes close to home-cooked. I guess it’s not that hard, either!

  2. Ruth, I had the 75 years Medicare Assessment a few years ago. Some challenging questions. e.g. What are your plans for the future? At that stage I said I hoped to live long enough that my son would remarry, have children and I would become a grandmother! But I don’t think that will happen. After six years of “separation” from his wife (seeing her every weekend) I don’t think he will ever divorce.

  3. I can almost smell that soup from the picture – it does look inviting. And I also love cooking soups from first principles – you can just feel the goodness going in with each mouthful! Glad your dish was so enjoyable Ruth.

  4. I’ve heard home made soup being described as “a beautiful warm hug” …. how lucky we are to have the motivation to prepare this rustic, simple food. I know of so many who people who only eat canned varieties.We have had both a hearty vegetable and also a cream of zucchini soup this past ten days. The zucchini soup made from our own fresh produce. Both were amazing and so looked forward to! YUM ! Oh and start practicing counting back from 100 by seven … You’ll nail all the general knowledge ones ‘cause you are still the smartest in the room xxx

    1. Glenda, that’s a perfect description of a winter soup, especially – I’ve not heard it before. I enjoyed the wild min-tomatoes from your garden, delicious. And I have been known to practice counting backwards occasionally on my walks – sad!

  5. Ruth,
    The young female GP shot that question to me as the questionnaire was finishing. If you didn’t get that question, I now think she may have just added it herself. She asked me with a particular relish!

    1. The nurse who conducted my cognition test yesterday was very laid back about the whole thing. I didn’t even get asked about the season!

  6. I also love a soup in winter and have pea and ham on my mind! Your story has definitely put me in the mind to cook it as soon as I am well enough.

    I haven’t read poetry in a long time would you share a good poem with us?

    1. Bec, your pea and ham soup is the best I’ve ever tasted! Ken is having the Heinz tin occasionally, which he says is ‘quite good, but home made is always better’. Will email some of my favourite poems.

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