better than the soup

betterthanthesoupLast night, I brewed up a large pot of homemade turkey albondigas soup. It’s one of my best soup recipes, inspired by a cooking class I coordinated and took from Chef Isabel Cruz in San Diego. Chef’s recipe includes chipotle peppers in adobo, but since I always forget to grab a can at the store, I’ve tweaked it a bit and came up with a household favorite. I hadn’t cooked much during the week, so you can imagine that when I tossed the meatballs into the pot of simmering vegetables in homemade chicken stock, I felt that sense of accomplishment I get from cooking up something truly delicious and nutritious. Bonus points for nutrient-dense meals, right? Plus, the weather dropped to a nice chill and I wanted to soak it all up with a batch of soup to take us into Tuesday of next week. My plan was to open the lid to let the soup cool down from piping hot before I placed it in the refrigerator.

I was tired. I had a really long week. The long week was punctuated by a nutty Friday at work. I was ready to relax. As my husband did the dishes, I turned the heat off on the soup and told him I would put it away in a bit, once it cooled.

Around 6 a.m., I barely opened my eyes and asked, “did you put away the soup?” I knew I had not, and I knew I told him I would, and I hoped with all my sleepy might that he put the pot in the fridge. Sean mumbled no, a knowing no, because he knew in that sleepy instant that the soup was still on the stove, off the heat and uncovered.

Immediately, I threw a sleepy fit. No, no! Ugh, no!

My all-organic soup with liquid gold stock and homemade meatballs is a waste. A total waste. Ingredients, nutrients, flavor, spices and money (oh, the money!). Down. The. Drain.

I wish I could tell you that I went downstairs to the kitchen and realized that I had in fact put the soup in the refrigerator as I intended to do before I went to bed, but that’s not what happened. I saw my beautiful red pot, lid propped open, full of soup, on the stove. It was, in fact, a waste. 16 meatballs, 2 quarts of stock, veggies on top of veggies and all my hopes and dreams for the weekend were gone.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m not over it yet. I’ll get over it eventually, but right now, I still feel like I failed. I still feel the guilt of wasting all that food and all the money. And my husband, I know that he feels bad because he knows how much I care about what I cook, and that even though chopping and stirring isn’t a lot of labor for a home cook like myself, it is work wasted. Plus, it’s one of his favorite soups and I know he was looking forward to taking it to work for lunch today, and coming home to eat more tonight and probably tomorrow night, too. I know I was looking forward to eating the hearty soup for the next few days.

It’s the perfect meal that’s filling but not heavy.

As awful as I feel about making such a big mistake in my kitchen, as much as I’d rather not talk about it, I think we should. I think we should share our crazy mistakes from the kitchen to the garden (I don’t have one of those…), embarrassing moments had at work and even around the family.

This is the thing about being a modern housewife: we don’t have it altogether, and we don’t have to pretend everything is perfect. We can come clean about our mishaps and lazy weekends and eating popcorn for dinner. We can be honest that meals are not always well-rounded or homemade, the pile of laundry on the bedroom floor, dirty hair ponytail days and downright ugly cry moments. We can talk about it and share it, because that’s not all of it. It isn’t all of me, it isn’t all of you.

I think that when we talk about the not-so-perfect, when we share it in a way that is healthy and safe, that’s when we gain a little confidence to be better and to grow. I’m not saying that telling you about my wasted pot of soup is going to change my whole life, but it sure is going to remind me that it’s OK to make mistakes in the kitchen and admit it. That even though everyone might ask me for recipes or advice or how-to lessons, I can make mistakes and not lose that credibility — or the ability to still be me.

I say this because I think that we as women, wives and sisters and friends, are so hard on ourselves.  We are so hard on each other.  We are so quick to discredit one another based on a simple mistake – major or costly.  We can be quick to define someone based on what to do or do not do.

And we shouldn’t.  I surely do not want to be defined by the wasted soup, just like you probably don’t want to be judged for eating a donut (no judgement here, girlfriend!).  And just like I won’t let myself get discouraged for one slip-up, I won’t let you get off-track because of your cheat day! (I might even encourage you, but that’s another post…).  We should be motivating one another, cheering each other on and being honest women.

(This is a good time to tell me you once wasted a batch of something because you let it sit on the counter overnight.)

How about we stop taking ourselves so seriously?  Yeah, I messed up.  Yes, you skipped your workout the other day.  Or you left a load of laundry in the washer and forgot to switch it.  Or maybe you totally messed up at work or flopped in an interview.  It’s OK.  Big hugs, a glass of wine and some really loud laughter, then figure out how to fix it or move on.

My point is simple: I’m still a warrior in the kitchen and I still make really good soup.  But tonight we’re having pasta with marinara.

A simple take-away from this very therapeutic post: the next time I make soup, especially late in the evening, I am going to set an alarm to remind myself to put it in the refrigerator.

Now, if only I can remember to set that alarm…

TALK BACK: Have you had any horrifying mistakes in the kitchen or elsewhere recently?  Share in the comments!

xo, mh

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