Soup is a feel good food. A warm bowl of soup on a chilly winter night. A thick hearty soup for lunch to keep you going through the day. Warm, comforting soup.
I turned to a particular soup recipe for comfort a few months ago. It was October 29, the day my older brother would have turned 43 if he were still with us. So grief was already with me that day, albeit a somewhat mellowed grief compared with the deep dark pain we felt almost nine years ago.
I went through my day, with my brother never far from my thoughts. I taught my fitness class at the Y and played some Kiss in his honour. (He always dressed up as Gene Simmons at Halloween.) I was heading to the shower afterwards when a cycling friend stopped me and told me that John Smith had died.
I was speechless. John was one of the most vibrant, life-loving, passionate people I’d ever met. His wife, Karen, is an avid cyclist. After recovering from a hip replacement, John wanted to join her on two-wheeled adventures. I remember the first half kilometre he rode with our cycling club. In no time, his zeal had him going the distance with the rest of us. He had a big smile and a bigger personality. He loved food. He loved yoga. He loved all things Chinese. He loved his family fiercely.
He was only 59.
I went home that night and headed straight to my computer to find this recipe for soup. John had made batches and batches of it to feed to hungry cyclists at the lunch stop on the Joe Howe Century – a 160-km bike ride our club holds every September. He’d emailed me the recipe, and I’d saved the whole message because it was so John. He wanted me to enjoy the soup as much as he did, to share something delicious with me.
Here’s what he wrote:
You must make this soup.
Red Lentil Apricot Soup
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried apricots
1 ½ cups red lentils
5 cups chicken stock
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot, sauté onion, garlic and apricots in olive oil. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and seasonings. Stir in lemon juice.
Pour half the soup into a blender and purée. Return to pot and serve.