Friday, July 8, 2011

Tomato Soup

There's something very seductive about tomato soup, and I don't mean in any sexual sense. No, it's deeper than that.

The other day, I was eating some tomato soup out of a Chinese blue enamelled rice-bowl, with a friend of mine. It was fairly standard smooth, rich, slightly salty tomato soup. My friend ate it with toast, I ate it by itself with a dessertspoon. I ate it very slowly.

I am not a huge soup fan, and when I do eat soup it is always made by one of my own recipes, perhaps my spicy pumpkin and coconut soup, or a chunky vegetable soup I make, with or without red or white meat.

Because the tomato soup was in a deep-blue bowl, it looked slightly bloodless, more towards the orange scale than a pure red colour, and it was as smooth as silk in my mouth. To me, tomatoes are to eat fresh in salads or sandwiches, or dried (when I dry them I preserve them in olive oil, not the canola oil commercial companies use, and I include garlic cloves and home-grown basil leaves in the jar), or grilled, or cooked up in chunky pasta-type sauces or chunky mixed-vegetable soups.

This was smoother than silk - the pieces of cracked pepper I added were the biggest objects in it. Yup, not even a single seed. It was quite voluptuous in the mouth.

And it tasted of the Distant Past. It made me think of childhood memories in general, knowing full well we never ate the stuff when I was a kid and it didn't link to any of my own childhood memories. But there was just something about the taste that evoked the idea of nostalgia for a past that never happened.

Tomato soup may be healing because there is something about it that makes us tap into our own inner child, and creates in our mind the idea of a happy, nurtured childhood that in at least some of our cases, just never happened at all. Tomato soup is more than warming and more than nourishing - it delivers us a promise of emotional comfort as well as physical comfort.

It is just my luck that the way it does that, through nostalgia, immediately sparked my suspicion. In a word, I caught it in the act of playing with my mind and heart, whereas many people would have accepted the nostalgia as real.

And once I recognised that, about a third of the way through the bowl, I was freed by the knowledge I had been searching for, and for the rest of the bowl I was able to relax into the luxury and comfort it gave me, knowing the echoes of "memories" to be false, and freed by that knowledge to accept the experience of voluptuous pleasure that it gave me as paradoxically real, and a great gift from the tomato soup to me in that moment.

Probably next winter some time, or the winter after that, I'll make a point of having tomato soup again, just for the indulgence of it.

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