I am planning to make a slow cooker soup recipe today that a friend told me about. It takes just three ingredients, and she says it tastes amazingly good. That is probably because the star ingredient is my favourite pasta sauce, al Dente. This pasta sauce isn't necessarily easy to locate, but if you can find some where you live I highly recommend it. It deserves a post of its own, so I will just say it is a Hammond family staple, and after using my last can over the Christmas holidays I was relieved to have a new case come into my possession last week.
Here is where this story takes a turn. I went to my pantry to find some lentils, which happen to be ingredient number two. It took a bit of searching to locate them. Alexandra is allergic to lentils, so I don't cook with them very often, and couldn't remember exactly where I had put them. I pulled the bag out from the very back corner of the pantry and promptly burst into tears. You see, I had forgotten.
One of the crops my dad grew on our farm was lentils. After he retired he continued to supply me with locally grown lentils. It had become a more difficult task once my parents moved off the farm, but he knew how much I loved having them so he went to great lengths to find them for me. I was holding in my hands the last bag of lentils my dad had bought for me. The last bag he would ever buy for me.
To make matters worse, there were only enough lentils left for this soup. I stood in my kitchen thinking two things. The first was, I can't throw the bag away. I simply can't. The second was, I can't save an empty plastic bag. I simply can't. Even for sentimental me that would be carrying things a bit too far. And that's when it hit me. I could take pictures and blog about it.
I am finding, almost a year and a half after my dad died, that this is how grief, tempered by time, operates. It is still there, but remains hidden for large chunks of time. Like one of those jack-in-the-box toys children play with, when I am least expecting it, it jumps out at me, taking me totally by surprise. I remember walking down a street in Kamloops last year and catching a faint whiff of pipe smoke in the air. And in that moment the memory of my grandpa was so profound, so vivid, I could almost feel his presence. If the smell of pipe smoke could, after more than thirty years, bring tears to my eyes I guess it should come as no surprise to me that after just a year and a half a bag of lentils could do the same.
Not that a recipe is the point of this post, but I won't leave you hanging about ingredient number three. It is chicken stock. The instructions are as simple as the ingredients. Put equal amounts of pasta sauce and chicken stick in the slow cooker. I am going to use about four cups of each. Thoroughly wash whatever amount of lentils you decide to use. It looks to me like I have about a cup and a half left in the bag, so that's what I am going with. Throw those in, stir, and cook on low for about six hours.
I had originally titled this post Sad Soup, but decided that wasn't quite right. I have renamed it Memory Soup, and every time I make it I am going to think about my dad, and how love can be shown in something as simple as the gift of a bag of lentils.