Soup and the Single Girl

In some ways, food and music have a lot in common. Too many harsh notes can overwhelm more delicate notes. Timing matters in both as there can be an initial impression, the central substance, and then finally the lingering aftertaste. Also, food has a way of bringing one back to a moment in time or a circumstance or a whole other period of life the way a song does. It can transport you entirely, and sometimes the memory of a food can inform the experience so much that it is the memory one enjoys as much as the actual eating.

When I lived by myself in NYC for years between college and grad school, I went to museums, the opera, plays, read Russian novels and historical biographies that were over a thousand pages. I was a Midwestern suburban girl in a crazy city I didn't belong in, and looking back I don't now who I'd be without that experience. That studio apartment in Queens with barely any furniture (what there was I had gotten for free from the hallway of my building), was in some way one of the most important locations of my life. I became the independent, critical thinking adult I was meant to be there. One thing that apartment and that whole lifestyle didn't have was remarkable food, at least until I met Scott who showed me what a head of garlic looks like. Upon seeing this head of garlic I didn't know what to do with it, but what can I say is that the way to a girl's heart is through her stomach. What that apartment did have was Campbell's tomato soup. While I know now that tomato soup is probably insanely easy to make, and that canned foods can often times have high levels of sodium, at that time in my life I didn't know the first thing about cooking and I was a creature of habit.

Tonight I made a dill Havarti grilled cheese (which my former self probably couldn't have managed) and Campbell's tomato soup. There is nothing quite like it. Even now after I've been to Peter Luger, Balthazar, great little family owned restaurants with really fresh food, eaten at a restaurant on a farm where they grow the ingredients, made things that have taken days and required multiple shallots and several types of alcohol, mastered several different kinds of homemade bread, there is still nothing like something so simple that takes me back immediately.

It is remarkable that a food product has the power to remind me so much how far I have come in terms of my personal life, career and sense of community, and also to remind me of the girl who thirsted so much after knowledge, and loved difficult, enormous books, and who burned with curiosity about countless ideas so much that she would often times not sleep until she finished what she was reading. This is a girl who doesn't really have a prominent place in the 9 to 5 work world. And I can thank the delicious, tangy, simple Campbell's tomato soup for never letting me forget her, what she wanted from the world and from herself as a person. I can thank the soup for helping me notice what a huge contrast there is between now and then, and therefore making me appreciate that my house now has furniture, and that I actually know what to do with a head of garlic.


  1. I love this. And I love tomato soup too. It reminds me of coming in after a long day of sledding as a kid.

  2. I believe there is nothing like it. Somehow, they've got it totally right.


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