Wednesday, February 03, 2021


 The quintessential winter comfort food.

Growing up, the best soup in the world was "Gramma-soup", served by my Grandma Breadner when we went to visit her in Parry Sound. She died in 1980, when I was eight, but before that, visits to her house were predictable in all the best ways. She knew what I liked and always made sure it was on offer. Gramma-soup is easy to make: Heinz or Campbell's tomato soup, prepared with (ideally) table cream in place of water or 2% milk. Add elbow macaroni, add as much grated marble cheese as you want, then double that, then square that. My dad still makes this for me when I see him. It's childhood in a bowl. Nowadays, at least until my guts decided to make an enemy of my lifelong love Kraft Dinner, I would prepare a pale imitation more suited to my tax bracket: tomato soup with KD in it. Pair with grilled cheese sand witches. (That's what I thought they were called, even though it made no sense: when you're six, lots of things don't make sense but are nevertheless true, and so you just accept them on faith. I mean, it was pretty obvious why you called them "scalped" potatoes: they'd been flayed, right? Surely desert-dwelling ladies on broomsticks had something to do with lunch. I'd find out what when I got older.) 

There are several other foods I associate with Parry Sound and prepubescence. Grandma also always had cream soda on hand: never having seen it anywhere else, I christened it "red-pop". Camping at Oastler Lake Provincial Park, six miles out of town, we would always make a grocery run to Dominion and get, among other things,  butter tarts. Mmm, gooey butter tarts. Also, for breakfast at the campsite, we always got that ten-pack of assorted Kellogg's cereals where the box was the bowl. I never had those any other time. 

But back to soup. There's something about a piping hot bowl, especially in the winter. THREE different soups are in my list of the Top Ten Things Kenny's Ever Put In His Mouth.  

Eva and I used to go to Golf's Steakhouse (yay, still a going concern in these covidious times) every Valentine's Day and occasionally on our anniversary in October. On one such outing, I asked what the soup of the day was. "Cream of broccolli", said the waitress, and she looked alarmed at my immediate moue of distaste. Broccoli is a vegetable. There are two categories of food, those which taste good and those which are good for you, and vegetables are in the second group, okay? A bowl of pureed good-for-you was not what I had in mind that particular outing. 

"No, really, you should try it, it's incredible," she said, and Eva looked at me from across the table with one of those married expressions, come on, married people, you know the one I'm talking about, the one that says I know what you're thinking and it's wrong. Okay, fine, I'll have a bowl of good-for-you. I'll spew green puke all over the place and Eva will never want to be seen with me outside the house ever again but it'll serve everyone right for making me eat good-for-you instead of actual FOOD. 

It came. I took a tentative spoonful. I was so set on it tasting terrible that it tasted terrible for just a second. Mouth dissonance, resolving into something splendid. I ended up getting another bowl, and now it's one of the soups du jour I look for. Now, of course, this cream of broccoli soup was heavy on the cream, moving it firmly out of good-for-you and into yummy.  

Soup number two was even better. It's a Disney take on Canadiana: Le Cellier's Cheddar Beer Soup. This stuff is a gastronomic epiphany.  The recipe here is an easier rendition that supposedly produces identical results and before this winter's out I'm going to try to prepare it. This was part of probably the most glorious meal Eva and I ever had. It's the only time I've ever had filet mignon (when you're on the Disney Dining Plan, you've paid -- dearly -- for everything up front, so go ahead and order that $45 entrée). I paid out of pocket to try the soup, since appetizers aren't (weren't) part of the DDP...and I do not regret that expense one bit. Dessert for me was maple crème brûlée, which went down my throat like Elton John goes down my ear canals...both are better with a little burny toppin', don't you think?   Eva had "campfire s'mores" and pronounced them 'lethal".  I still remember the waitress's name ten years later: that should tell you how good Chelsea's service was.  

The third soup of, Kathy's. It's cream of potato -- are you sensing the creamy theme here? -- and it likewise is not in any way shape or form good-for-you. There's a lot of prep work and a lot of butter that goes into this thing.  If it wasn't so much effort to prepare, I'd be asking for it...often. Hey, my heart is going to attack one of these days. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. 


"trustedwings" on Facebook: 

So do caterpillars like know that they're gonna be butterflies or do they just build the cocoon and be like wtf am I doing... understand what happens to a caterpillar once it's in its cocoon? It completely turns to goo. That's right, GOO. The damn thing completely dissolves and reforms into the butterfly.  Even crazier, the wings of the butterfly are already inside the caterpillar, ready to go, just waiting to float around in some goo and then be a beautiful butterfly. The craziest part? A study was done where some caterpillars were exposed to a certain smell and then given an electric shock so eventually the caterpillars associated the smell with the shock. Well, after those hairy noodles come out of their cocoons as butterflies, they exposed them to the smell  again and the butterflies reacted super negatively, like they were being shocked. AKA not only are there wings floating around inside the goo cocoon, there is also a brain, the same, unaltered brain as in the caterpillar. The butterfly can recall its days as a caterpillar even after basically being turned into soup. And then it somehow gets its shit together to be a stupid little majestic little beast, and I can't remember where I put my damn phone.    

I read that last night and immediately read it four or five more times. I posted it and commented "henceforth I'm going to refer to this lifetime as my soup."

There are times I am capable of great wisdom. But  those times are not often, and if I'm being honest with myself I have actually regressed in the past two months or so. I can cast around for goats to scape and find no shortage of them: the atmosphere is still toxic everywhere, the pandemic has actually affected me to the point I'm low-key angry about just about everything. But of course that's a copout.  Circumstances are circumstantial. Who I am is not supposed to be dependant on circumstance. 

But it is, lately. About halfway through the last American presidential term -- I am NOT writing his name, ever again, I mean it -- I gave up and became the very thing I sought to destroy in myself. Mean. The best defence being a good offence, and all that. I told myself I was just standing up for what is right and true.  As the QAnonsense grew in volume and craziness, so did my contempt for anyone supporting it, or anything like it. And I have not shied away from expressing that contempt. Forcefully.  

On a purely reactional level, I can defend this. These people are, quite simply, insane. Dangerously so. When you have an elected official suggesting school shootings are staged, the fires in California were ignited by a Jewish space laser, and other elected officials should be executed -- that's a level of nutso I never thought I would see in the United States of all places. 

But on a mental health level -- I can't. Their position is indefensible; mine is hardly less so...because it's poisonous. A steady diet of contempt, no matter how well-earned it may be, is corrosive. It spreads until it infects relationships and interactions it shouldn't. 

The worst strike against me (and sadly, not the last) was when I attacked a good friend over what I perceived as anti-vax views. She's not anti-vax, but she does have concerns, and without getting too personal she has some good reason to. She has never suggested the vaccine is evil or microchipped or anything like that, and she takes all reasonable precautions against this hellish virus. I shat all over her concerns, eager to leap to the worst possible interpretation of her view, and why? In large part because lashing out had become a way of online life for me. 

Some weeks later -- last night, in fact -- I read that one of the vaccines induces anaphylactic shock at ten times the rate of other vaccines against other diseases. That's the New England Journal of Medicine: if there's a more reputable source, I don't know what it is. Caveats: the people who experience this are invariably allergic to some component of the vaccine; even ten times the rate of other vaccines is still a minuscule number. Counterpoint: people may well be allergic to some component of the vaccine and have no idea until they're (hopefully) being revived with epinephrine. 

Is that enough to convince me not to get the vaccine? No. Might it be for someone who has seen life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines? You bet your flippin' Bic. 

My actions have had consequences, as all actions do. The friendship still exists thanks to this woman's bottomless fount of grace, but it's considerably more distant now and that was my fault entirely. I have apologized with words and am seeking to apologize better with changed behaviour...but I keep slipping. Not against her, against random internet stupid people. But if I keep doing that with strangers, it's only a matter of time before I unthinkingly do it again to someone I actually care about. 

I have an e-friend who refers to QAnon as "open source Scientology".  I looked into Scientology once. On my own time and terms: you couldn't pay me to set foot in one of their clearinghouses. The comparison is remarkably apt. Both start out relatively sane -- Scientology at the lowest levels mirrors pop psychology and was actually kind of ahead of its time -- but quickly devolve into whatthefuckism. QAnon, too, with its compelling (to some) narrative that strives to make sense of a senseless world, very quickly descends into madness. You don't start out in QAnon believing the U.S. government is secretly run by a satanic cabal of blood-drinking lizard people. You start out questioning something simple, and then you're encouraged to "do your own research", following what seem like novel trails but which are VERY well-trodden. Each "unearthed" nugget steers you deeper into insanity, and you go willingly, believing you alone know The Truth (tm). 

I don't know any Scientologists. If I did, I certainly wouldn't talk to them about their "religion" or anything that touched on it.  I'm not going to change their mind and I really don't want them thinking they have an opportunity to change mine. 


I can say I'm just connecting with people for good or ill all I want, and that even ill connection is better than none at all. That is a damnable lie. 

I try to be open about my sins and errors. Maybe too open, especially since as I said just recently it feels like I haven't really improved much, for all my words. So I browbeat myself, which also doesn't help. People probably think I'm attention-seeking. There is definitely an element of that in my lashings out: often, at least as many people agree with me as disagree, and that's addictive. Like most addictions, it's fraught. 

I used to have an elevated opinion of my own evolution. I no longer have that opinion. I am NOT an old soul. I am a very young soul seeking to mature, stumbling, ever stumbling, occasionally catching. I'm in the soup. Somewhere inside me is a butterfly waiting to be born. I know it's there now: the passage I linked above tells me so. "Getting my shit together" is a lifelong occupation. There's more shit here than I thought. 

I'm in the soup. For this life, I just want to aspire to taste good. 



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