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Day 2: Fuck This Soup

Dear God. What have I done? It’s only Day 3, and last night I was already contemplating surrender. There is nothing that brings a cook to her knees faster than a disaster meal. Last night’s, was a complete FAIL.

It was the first night of my challenge. The first night to create a meal for two using only the ingredients in the house. Walking home from the office, I strode past Waitrose with confidence. My mind ran through possible recipes. I was tired, but sure I would succeed.

A - chop board

Knowing what I had available and knowing that I also needed to satisfy Tom’s voracious appetite, I decided to make an asparagus soup with cheddar biscuits. Why? Because soup has legs. I always make soup when I need to stretch ingredients without compromising the heartiness of a dish.

Once home, I opened the fridge to find a few potatoes, some rotten spinach, a bag of radishes, and a large container of double cream. No meat in sight other than a section of cured sausage that belonged to our flatmate, Gideon. The asparagus didn’t look as good as I remembered. Feeling a slight itch, I started looking at the rest of our pantry. Passata. Four sacks of flour. A tin of butter beans. Several different containers of cumin. Five jars of mustard. What I saw in front of me was a lot of good, specific ingredients, but nothing that added up to a complete meal. A wave of panic set in as I flashed forward to the month ahead.

A - soup (f) crop

Whatever the case, supper was still not on the table. So I chopped some garlic, shallots, carrot, potatoes, and boiled them with some vegetable stock. Fine. I added the asparagus and some mustard. Fine. I grated some cheddar for the biscuits, but noticed that the homemade dough I removed from the freezer did not seem to want to thaw. Mildly irritating, but I was still fine. I pureed the soup, and tasted it. What I got on the other end of the spoon was completely unexpected. It was bland as baby food. I tried adding some lemon juice and more salt and pepper. Not much better, and I’m usually pretty good at fixing mistakes. Maybe some double cream would do the trick?

By now it was 10pm, the dough was still partially frozen, and the soup was a sour mess. I ditched the biscuit idea and tried pulling a rabbit by stealing a section of Gideon’s sausage and frying it into crispy bits. Voila, my garnish along with some cheddar and fresh thyme.

a - biscuits

What I served looked ok. But the reality was that the sausage and cheese were desperately trying to hide a slop that sat beneath. Tom and I choked it down, and the running joke for the night was him asking if he could have some more. The only saving grace was the package of Christmas cookies that finally arrived from my parents. I ate about a dozen just to overcome my hunger and my shame.

It tortured me well into the evening. I replayed every action in my head. The choice of ingredients, the technique. How and when I might have gone wrong. But more importantly, was the notion that there will be more of this. I’m scared of what lies ahead. It’s funny how one silly soup can make me question my entire ability as a cook. It makes me wonder what will break me?

Luckily, Gideon is cooking supper tonight.


  1. Kake

    Soup does that sometimes… it's a bit of a mystery. Perhaps if you'd fried the garlic and shallots that might have helped? More salt, maybe? Did you consider adding some of that cumin you found, or even a few spoonfuls of mustard?

    I love this project, and I hope you don't get too discouraged by the soup!

  2. Kake

    Oh, just noticed that I misread, and you did in fact add mustard — sorry!

  3. Jen

    Thanks for the encouraging words! I did all the things I normally do with soup -sweat the veg before hand, etc. But it just didn't work. I always say that sometimes no matter how hard you try, the universe does not want you to be in the kitchen. That was definitely true that day.

  4. Rob

    You know what – even making the attempt is admirable in my book. I am a "by the book" recipe guy, my partner is much more of a "odds and ends" cook and I have always been jealous. Maybe it was the stock? I have always struggled with vegetable stock and usually end up back with chicken (even cooking for veggies – whoops!)

  5. Jen

    Haha! I have also made that mistake with vegetarians. To tell or not to tell: that is the question.

  6. Tom

    As long as you never cook this soup again I don't care : )

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