Life soup and crusty bread

Get out your stockpot. Prepare yourself for one of my favorite recipes. It's called Soupa, Soupa, Soupa. Not your ordinary soup, but something special that will warm your body, mind and soul - and prepare you for unexpected guests.

Not the human variety but the unexpected challenges that show up in life.

You know - those things that show up on the doorstep when you least expect them: A telephone bill that slipped into the bushes when you were carrying an armful of groceries into the house and now is overdue.

Or the nagging, recognizable scratching sound that you hear in your pantry at night - mice that want to take up residence. Or, the puddle of water that won't stop pooling at the corner of the garden. Or, the phone call from the school saying that your kid is serving detention for the next three days for talking back to the teacher.

Yes, these and other unexpected guests will land on your doorstep - so cook up this Soupa and keep it on the back burner, ready and prepared.

Begin with a large onion, finely chopped. The onion flavors the stock, reminding us that often it's the small things that make us cry. We might try to hold back the tears, but a good cry - even tears of joy - brings powerful relief from the inside out.

Onions also teach us to keep handkerchiefs in our pockets. There is a time to reflect on what we're doing, time to wipe our eyes and time to blow our noses.

Next, add as much minced garlic as you like. Garlic is a mainstay to the Soupa. It's smelly and pungent, yet without pungency, life would be boring and bland.

Garlic, while raw and left whole, offers powerful medicinal properties, but minced and tossed into the stockpot, it enhances the richness of the soup.

Remember, we're talking about freshly minced garlic, not garlic powder or minced garlic from a jar. We want to learn the value of mincing - to chop things down into smaller and smaller pieces can be a lesson in savoring the moment.

Instead of focusing on everything you need to accomplish in the next year, mince life down into weekly, daily and moment-by-moment pieces. Life is easier to manage - and tastier - bit by bit.

Next, a good handful of scrubbed and sliced carrots. Lovely, bright-orange carrots teach us to be well-rooted, yet still reach for the sun. This balance is effortless for carrots but tricky business for you and me.

We seem either to get bogged down in earthly matters or lost in lofty, idealistic causes. The carrot reminds us to integrate what's above with what's below.

Now, chop three or four stalks of celery. Celery has tall, stately ribs and a green-tasseled top - a reminder to stand tall when facing the heat. Celery quickly softens, though, teaching us that there are times when we need to relinquish our rigidness.

Potatoes: Pick out a couple of big ones to provide starch, the stuff that binds. Potatoes are of the earth. Their eyes teach us to look around and multiply our friendships. They teach us to stick together as family and community, essential for our well-being.

Snip a small bunch of thyme from the garden. There's nothing like thyme to add flavor to life. I love it. We choose how to use it - generously, efficiently and wisely. Put thyme into your Soupa and you'll definitely notice the difference.

Add 10 cups of water. Water makes up more than 90 percent of our bodies, and by a modern miracle, we can open the tap in our kitchen and bring water from our rivers and mountain tops into our stockpots.

It's easy to take this everyday miracle for granted, but we cannot live without water and must learn to treasure all it provides - including inspiration, playfulness, reverence and gratitude.

Oh yes, don't forget a pinch of salt - every grain counts. Season to taste.

Now you have every essential ingredient in the pot. This is your basic stock to keep on hand at all times - on the back burner, at a moderate temperature.

Finally, break some crusty bread and enjoy the Soupa. It will sustain you, nurture you and provide you with the strength and courage to greet all of your unexpected guests and the lessons they bring.

Bon appetit.

Ruth Marcus offers kitchen table counseling in Sequim, WA. Visit for more information.

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