Soup for the Soul: Caramelized Red Onion Soup

This soup comes from the Rebar cookbook (Alsterberg and Urbanowicz 2001, pp. 47, 133). It is in two parts: Slow Roasted Tomatoes (p. 47) and the actual soup recipe (p. 133). The recipe for the slow roasted tomatoes begins with “Patience is the only thing you need to follow this recipe” (Alsterberg and Urbanowicz 2001, pp. 47). Indeed! A good tip for the recipe of life!

These tomatoes will roast as I have a coffee, write the first part of this blog, respond to emails, read to my son and go to an eye appointment. They will be done for lunch. I breathe and reflect on the importance of patience and how this assignment has been all about patience, mostly with myself. And that that really is where we need to focus our energies: cultivating patience for ourselves and others and letting go of the busy schedules we get wrapped up in to breathe and have gratitude for what we have. As Liz always reminds me: take the time for grace in this world.

As I started to lay everything out on the table to begin this recipe, I pulled out my favourite wooden cutting board that my cousin gave me. The silpats (previously in use with Gabriel’s and my Genius Hour chocolate cell project) used to roast the tomatoes (and everything else in this house), were given to me by my good friend Paul. The pepper and salt shaker were a Christmas gift from my friend Jen. The pastry brush was a purchase inspired from a visit long ago with my friend Moira. And the bones for this soup were a gift from my friend Judy. The cookbook from which all there recipes for this project have been taken was also a gift from Paul and Kary and every time I make something from it, I am drawn back to memories of their kitchen where many of these soups have also been served and where time slows down and friendships are nourished with good food and conversation.

I was filled with gratitude and connection. When I look around my kitchen, it is a place of gifts and community. This year, community has been redefined and we all have reimagined and recreated ways of meeting and talking and being together. Most of the gifts I am using in this recipe have come from that time before, when we laughed and hugged and sat down close together to share food. We even thought nothing of sticking our fingers in food and licking them to ‘taste test’ our cooking and baking. This year has been an exercise in patience and in gratitude and in giving.

I hadn’t really thought of this food blog and the projects we are doing the the MEd as playing an important role in this commune of food that we are lacking so much right now. But they are! They are a way of coming to the table, of sitting down together, of chatting and of sharing our experiences and endeavours together. So very important in this time.

I finished the soup a few days later, early in the morning before coffee. I had been a little worried about the beef broth being in the fridge for so long but a layer of fat had sealed it in completely and I was reminded of my Mom sealing jam with wax. I was also reminded that this is just one step towards sustainability. Using bones in soup is an important milestone to using everything that we can from what we take or gather from this world. But what about the beef fat that resulted? I am not using that. In the past, it would have been used to make tallow candles, perhaps a little smelly for modern tastes but a gift of light nonetheless.

There is clearly more to be done here. And, of course, lurking on the edge of this discussion is the vegetarian/vegan vs. Paleo discussions and debates and questions. That’s for another time in our family. At the moment, my goal is to shift our existing practices towards ones more connected to the earth. As I look at the mound of onion skins that resulted from this soup, I know that they will be composted and will help to grow more things in our garden and further the conversation and negotiations between our ash trees and our tomatoes as the ashes enjoy the compost bins and extend their roots through our garden.

As I chopped onions and peeled tomatoes and put everything in the pot before the sun was up, I also reflected on how wonderful it felt to have dinner done. Or at least part of it. The rhythm of slow cooking, of taking time and consideration, of simply enjoying our relationship with food is precious and a practice that I want to continue. This soup is done. The next is ready to begin.

Reference List

Alsterberg, Audrey & Urbanowicz, Wanda. (2001). Rebar: modern food cookbook. Big Ideas Publishing Inc.

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