I pulled the items from the pantry and refrigerator using the folded up paper as my guide.
Rice… chicken… I’m on my way… celery… scallions (SHOOT, forgot those)… salt… pepper… can of diced tomatoes (Strike two!)… onion powder… packet of chicken noodle soup (Strike three!) What is wrong with me? Why did I think I had everything to make this? Maybe I should do it another day.
“Mom, what are you making?” the youngest asked with a true sense of curiosity.
“Memere’s chicken rice soup,” I answered with a great deal of uncertainty in my voice.
“Are you sure about that?” he replied with a whole lot of certainty and just that little bit of 13 year old sass that completes every sentence right now.
“Yes, yes I am. Why? What’s wrong?” I answered trying to hide my indecision.
He looked over at me as he poured a glass of juice.
“Well, it’s just… she is a really great cook, mom. And, well, I think it’s hard to make,” I knew what he was doing… I knew in that first moment. Don’t you dare, little boy!
“Listen, I know it won’t be as good as hers, but let me try and we’ll see how it goes,” I answered allowing that good ‘ole stubborn side of me to take over. (Where do you think he got that sass from?!) He was NOT going to tell me my soup wasn’t going to be good.
He walked away with a nod as he chugged down half of his juice.
I got to work. Cook the chicken. Chop up the celery. Throw in some onion to make up for the scallions (close enough!). Chop up the chicken. Add it back in with the rice. A dash of salt. A dash of pepper. Some onion salt. And start simmering! No one will notice the missing tomatoes. They all hate tomatoes! They will like it better I thought as the soup sat simmering.
The scent that wafted from the kitchen was just incredible. I was back. To her kitchen. To her by the stove deftly making each and every meal, each and every night.
He came bounding downstairs.
“MOM! It smells just like Memere’s! Is it ready?” he leaned into the pot letting the aroma remind him of that same kitchen.
“Almost,”I answered thinking I might make him wait a bit longer because of his skepticism over my abilities.
I ladled the soup into bowls and proudly laid them out on the table in front of each of them.
“Um, mom,” my older, more cautious son started, “it doesn’t look exactly like Memere’s.”
“I know I didn’t have tomatoes and I know you all don’t like tomatoes and plus this is actually Pepere’s favorite way Memere makes this soup so I am certain you will all love it just like Pepere does,” the words came tumbling out of my mouth without a breath in an effort to save this labor of love from becoming a labor in futility.
They all looked at their bowls. Slowly they each dipped their spoons in. I took a bite before they could to see if I was even close.
Close… I was close. Not exactly, but it was close.
“Hmmm… it’s not bad. I guess I like it the way Pepere does,” the youngest said as he looked up from his bowl, “Good job, mom, Memere is going to be so proud of you.”
Yes. Yes, she will.
(To note: The youngest ate every single drop of the remaining soup over the course of the next few days and stated that the lack of tomatoes made the soup even better!)