So, I‘ve just made soup. The temperature here in Coral Bay, though a touch windy is ranging from the mid to high 20’s (celsius that is) and I’ve just made a nice and spicy, chili and butternut-squash soup. Let’s just think about that shall we? Because it seems rather odd, even to me. Here’s the thing, I think you always need a little something that reminds you of home now and again when you’re traveling. Once on a scorcher of a day in South Africa my aunt asked what I’d like for dinner and I said, “Nan’s sausage casserole”.
This may be my first successful attempt at soup making – I love cooking and I’d say I’m not half bad at it, but venturing in to the world of soup has never worked well for me – I think because generally it’s basic concept doesn’t seem quite difficult enough for me, so I try to make it into something more (whatever that means in the the realms of soup) and it inevitably ends up as a whizzed up meal; like the ones your mum would served you when you had just sprouted teeth but were too lazy to chew. It’s got the roasted stuff, the raw stuff, the slightly burnt stuff and remnants of some sort of sauce, all whizzed in the blender together – the content is very much like a mix of the week’s left over dinners. Now, I love a bit of a burnt onion in with my potatoes and gently roasted whole cloves of garlic, but these rules don’t apply to soup; one little burnt bit and the whole thing tastes like a bonfire. So yes, soup, simple but deceitfully tricky to master.
So, of course I have chosen a place where the pressure is off, if the flavours are overwhelming I’m going to dull it down by eating it cold with Greek yogurt like a, ‘new world cuisine’ gazpacho – told you I was whizz at this chef thing.
Still, why soup? Why not choose something like a good ol’ ham sandwich – with a slice of tomato and little bit of mustard? Because, because, I love a challenge and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should definitely make it.
Whilst we’re on the subject, have I mentioned how expensive food is in Coral Bay? Well, let me mention it – food is expensive! Of course. We are miles away from any other towns here on the West Coast of Australia and when I say miles I do mean hours of driving, so it’s understandable, and being that we are such a small town they don’t so much buy in bulk as it would most likely go off. That is the case for the shops at least, the bottle-o’s however, well, they’re frequently found to be drunk drier than the sand filled landscape that surrounds them, take for instance the Mediterranean gin we discovered here (delicious and also stronger and cheaper than Gordon’s – rude not to) and a certain red wine we’ve found sits suitably well between cheap and consumable (truthfully, it only starts swaying towards the latter by the third glass). It happens so frequently that after a week of daily consumption there is, much to our horror, no more to be found on the shelf. So, I suppose, really, the price of food is balanced by the lack of travel costs, frequent missing of meals (due to a liquid diet) and the locals’ similar penchants to invite you to or join in on a arvo drink or two. Let’s not forget the sunset pilgrimages – I’m sure I needn’t mention that they demand a cider or four to enhance appreciation – and then, to top it all off, is the rather cheap rent for your little pad provided by the employers here. But at any rate, it’s still hard to get your head around the prices and that’s mostly because I’m converting them back to the pounds with the dollar conversion from when I arrived here; should I update myself on this conversion I’ll probably find I’m working in a gold mine and will never complain again, oh Britain.
So, the crux of it is that, I bought a huge butternut-squash for under $4 the other day and was astounded at the value, that’s less than £2 and it is rather large! Well, as I mentioned, we frequently miss meals, so, what to do with a thing like that? Make a rather large batch of soup seemed like the best idea.. Why not roast it all and shove it in salads and create meals that don’t cause self combustion? Well, that’s the thing, I really do think when you’ve been a touch under the weather – note chest infection followed by a cracked rib, as of late I’m a bit unwell – there’s nothing like smells and tastes to remind you of places and people; and when this happens you can eat with gratitude. I frequently sipped spicy butternut-squash soup whilst sat at my desk at in London, whiling away my lunch hour in front of a screen with no view to speak of, a busy train journey away from home and a feeling that something better was waiting for me if only I felt strongly enough to commit to it. So now you understand why it has to be soup. What better thing to enjoy as I gaze from my terrace at the ocean, the blue sky reflecting off it, just at the bottom of my road. Now the soup is always too hot for the weather – even when it’s served up cold, the view extends to the flat, ocean-lined horizon, travelling takes me somewhere beautiful on a daily basis and almost everyone I walk past smiles and says, ‘g’day’. With all these ‘mindfulness’ and ‘living in the moment’ waves of consciousness flourishing at the moment, I think there is something to be said for, on occasion, reflecting, comparing and contrasting to truly appreciate the moment you’re living in. To appreciate how far you’ve come and to take a deep breath in and wait for it to hit you, like a ton of bricks so hard and heavy it ensures you never second guess your gut. Never settle and keep moving forward, because, soup, is a versatile as you make it.