Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mom to Mom: Anna Thomas & Love Soup!

"Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!" - Lewis Carroll

I cannot resist a beautiful bowl of soup. Many, many years ago, a cherished soul gave me a vegetarian cookbook from her favorite vegetarian restaurant. In it, she tucked a 50 dollar bill and wrote, "please make the pea soup and make extra for me". Well, I did...and it was wonderful and so began my slight obsession for yummy vegetarian soups.

I had the good fortune to review a new vegetarian cookbook, "Love Soup" by the amazing Anna Thomas! It's everything a soup lubbin' vegetarian could dream of! I made her "Creamy Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup" and topped it with some slivers of chévre cheese and a small hunk of crusty bread (see photo above). It was sooooo good! What made this soup so special though was the bit of sweet potato which added a lovely color and a hint of sweetness. YUM!

Naturally, I just had to chat her up...but first, a video clip!

Anna Thomas
Christopher (25), Ted (24)
Ojai, California
Vegetarian Epicure

1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

That’s a big question, sister! It changes everything. When my first baby was born, an organism (me) divided and became two different organisms – a child, and a mother – neither of which had existed before. We were both, in a way, starting from zero.

Everything was different. I had no time, I couldn’t bear to read the newspaper because of all the violence, my priorities were re-ordered, and my hair was dirty most days. It took me a while to realize it was not a temporary disruption. A dear friend who was already a father sent us a little handmade membership card: on one side, “Parents Club of the World,” on the other, “Life Memberships Only.”

I entered a new world, one in which there was always someone more important than me, and the future was both more exciting and more frightening. Interestingly, the past changed as well; I began to understand my own parents. And now, as my children grow up, I begin to understand more about who I was when I was their age.

But here’s a big one: I’ve become less judgmental. Being a parent makes everything else you ever did look easy. And when you do that job, really do it, you stop judging others, because you know how incredibly tough and complicated things can get. But would I trade it for anything else? No! Never!

2. What message would you like to share with other mothers?

Everything is a phase. No matter what the challenge is, what you’re trying to figure out and contend with, it is a phase; it will pass. Not that you get to ignore it – and it’s diabolical the way just when you’ve figured out how to deal with tantrums, that’s no longer the problem and it’s something entirely new and different that you haven’t thought about yet! But it is a phase, and it will eventually play itself out. And you will survive if you remember that.

And never regret an extra moment you spend with your children. You won’t be lying on your deathbed saying, “wish I’d spent just a little more time in the office.”

3. What is your family’s favorite dish?

This has changed a lot over the years – when the kids were little they loved rice pudding and breakfast pancakes, and later they adored summer tomato soup and quesadillas and Tortilla Española… But I must admit that the cream cheese pierogi that I make for Christmas Eve, little savory pastries filled with caramelized cabbage or potatoes, are beloved by all, and through all eras. They accompany my Christmas Eve Porcini Soup – a recipe I included in Love Soup, even though it can be a bit of work to find porcini, because that soup is so amazingly delicious, and such a family tradition. I think it’s in our DNA, the Polish side.

4. What inspired you to write Love Soup?

This goes back a long way! I have always cooked soups, but when my first baby was born soup became even more important. All the years that I was raising my children, when everybody seemed hungry all the time and there was never an extra moment, having a pot of soup in the fridge really was like money in the bank.But then the children grew up and moved out, and I moved, too, downsized in a major way. I was doing a major remodel – a re-build, actually – and was temporarily living in a converted painter’s studio. I put in a teeny, tiny little kitchen under the stairs to the sleeping loft, which I thought would be just dandy for the few months of construction.

You can see where this is going, right? Three years later, I was still in the 81-inch kitchen. And during that time – I was cooking soup, soup, and more soup! It was the food that saved me, allowed me to continue to eat well, to cook seasonal produce without needing a lot of equipment (which was all packed away), to have friends over for casual suppers…A good pot of soup is like a magnet, people just naturally bring the bread and olives and cheese and wine that go with it. Those seasons of soup in the wee kitchen showed me that no space is too small for cooking, or for sharing food with friends. I fell in love with soup all over again - and decided I had to write about it. The whole book was written in that not-so-temporary kitchen!

5. What moves you, grounds you, fills your well?

Two things have always filled me with lasting joy: the true experience of art, and the far, wild reaches of the natural world. I would travel a long way for a good opera, or to see a great painting. Real art never lets you down. And hiking in the mountains is my daily blessing. I live where I live, and drive longer distances for work, so that I can see the mountains out my window, and walk the trails into them any time. For my 50th birthday I climbed Mount Whitney with a couple of girlfriends. I’ve called on that experience many times. Experiencing these things in the companionship of family or good friends has always been my spiritual nourishment.

When I had children, I shared the things I loved with them: art, the beauty of nature, the comradeship of close friends – and I watched them discover the world. And later – the most moving thing of all: seeing my children make art.

*This diary entry is dedicated to Ida May Mahler...
When making a bowl of soup, when climbing a tree with my son...you come to mind. Loved, missed and always remembered.

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posted by Wendy at 4:51 AM


Anonymous Jill said...

Thank you Wendy and Anna for a wonderful interview. So wise, so grounding...thanks.

2:05 PM  

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