By Jo Mooy
Sometimes difficult and emotional topics need to be added to a conversation slowly and one-by-one—just like soup ingredients—for the best chance of a positive outcome.
What is soup? Must it be a liquid? How thick? What goes into it? What doesn’t? Is it served in a bowl or cup? Is there a recipe or a family history with the soup? If it’s a legacy soup, can it be altered in any way? Is it only served on special occasions? How do you know when it’s soup? These aren’t silly or idle philosophical questions. They’re actual questions an Italian game designer had to answer in order to “teleport the concept of soup” to a future society in a digital space game.
Soup sounds like one of the easiest culinary dishes to make. But it isn’t. Soup can come with lots of psychological baggage and history, none of which can be teleported into space. Soup can dredge up rooted feelings and emotions—especially if the recipe came from your long-gone grandmother, who passed it to your mother, who passed it to you. Memories can surface of watching grannie or mom cooking the soup all day long. Add a holiday like Thanksgiving into the mix, and the history of that special soup can be exhausting to think about when you’re the soup lineage holder, and it’s your turn to make it.
One Thanksgiving my sister and I were making the family soup. We began with the chicken stock. In my grandmother’s day, she put a whole chicken in a pot along with a few small onions, carrots, and spices. It cooked for hours until the chicken fell off the bone and was scooped away for stuffing. My grandmother said the stock needed to be made from the chicken bones till they disintegrated. The four cans of College Inn Chicken Stock that we dumped into the big pot that day was surely a sacrilege.
As we chopped, diced, and blended the various ingredients from the recipe (the College Inn simmering behind us as a betrayal of our heritage), the conversation eased into various family topics. The most important was mom was getting older. She lived too far away from my sister and needed care. We began charting a plan on how to mention it to mom and gently edge her in the direction of moving. Our mother comes from a long line of formidable women with strong opinions, so budging her out of her home would not be easy.
My sister assured me it could be managed. It’s sort of like cooking this soup she said. You start slowly with a base and let it simmer a while. Then you begin adding different ingredients. You can’t add all the ingredients at the same time or they’ll turn to mush. The ones that take the longest to cook go in first. And the spices have to enhance the soup, not overwhelm it. The conversation with mom had to be discussed slowly and carefully. New topics (just like the soup ingredients) had to be added one by one. Too many spices (like emotions in the conversation) could ruin the soup and derail the move plans. I asked my sister “How will we know when to broach the subject with mom?” She said, “When it’s soup.” I had to think about that a while.
We eased into the conversation with mom that Thanksgiving, turning the heat up or down on her different concerns as we went along. We talked with her while cooking the soup, using it as a catalyst as well as a distraction. The soup ingredients and the move topics simmered one by one. After a lengthy discussion, and while the soup’s aroma surrounded us, mom surprised us by saying she’d give the move some thought.
Eventually she did more than that. Living more than an hour away, she realized she needed help and it was the right decision for her to live closer to my sister. She sold her house and bought a new, smaller cottage that suited her well. She made new friends, found a new church, and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving with all of us and the family soup until her death in 2005.
Every Thanksgiving I think of the soup. It has a revered spot in our dinner menu and in our lineage. Years ago I turned the recipe over to my daughter—along with the College Inn shortcut. There’s no doubt my grandmother would enjoy watching her great-grandsons clamoring for the family soup before the big dinner. Every Thanksgiving I also think about how we asked mom to move. My sister was right about how the conversation would go. She said the soup was ready “When it’s Soup” and not before. Mom moved because she too realized when it was soup.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.