“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.”
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Guest: “What exactly is in this soup?”
Me: “It’s pumpkin soup.”
Hubby (encouraging): “It’s an early spicy pumpkin soup.”
Guest: “Unusual taste.”
Me: “Yes. I’m afraid something went wrong. You don’t have to eat it.”
It was almost a case of ‘Nyamazela-at-the-Church-do-with-the-pumpkin-soup’.
I pride myself on being a better than average soup maker. But as the old adage goes, and Hubby pointed out rightly when we were destroying the evidence later that night, pride comes before a fall.
The tragic-comic story of the ‘Case of the Pumpkin Soup’:
On Monday night Hubby and I were due to run a course at our home. We had 12-15 people to feed.
Being super efficient, I made my soup the day before. When it was all done, spiced and liquidated, I decided to add some double thick cream to taste. I went to bed with that tired-satisfied feeling you get when you’ve completed a big job in good time.
But efficiency, it turns out, is not always a virtue.
On Monday morning we headed for work to tackle the full day ahead – we were 3 brokers down in the office due to sickness, holiday leave and a Seatrade conference in Dubai. Hubby and me to the rescue!
That evening I rushed home in the rain to set the table, mix a jug of sparkling water lime and mint, put out bread, butter, bowls of berries and nuts, staple course notes and generally get the house in a ready state for visitors – oh, and to warm up the soup in time!
When the soup came to a boil, I tasted it – Oh God! Something was wrong with my soup!
And people were arriving in 20 minutes!
What I should have done was chuck the soup down the drain, dash out to Tesco and buy them out of pumpkin soup.
But I didn’t.
A) I hate wasting food. B) The pumpkin was given to us by a fellow allotment-holder. C) The soup also contained Hubby’s patty pan (his favourite veg he’s grown this summer). D) I just plain panicked!
Heart racing, I began adding ingredients – a dash of soy, a bag of grated parmesan, a splash of wine. This somewhat worked.
And then the doorbell rang and people started arriving.
Let me tell you something about the English. If you stand on an Englishman’s foot he will apologise quicker than you ever could. Politeness trumps every social rule there is!
I’d, by this stage tasted more than a teaspoon of my soup and I knew it was bad!
But all the English could say while tentatively sipping from their cups and filling up on bread was: “Interesting, what’s in it?”, “Unusual soup”, “Tastes lemony” or my favourite, “Is there Whiskey in it?”
(I should have put whiskey in it!!)
Nobody asked for seconds – they’d been through enough for Queen and country!
I’d made a realisation by the end of the evening, but couldn’t bring myself to say it out aloud. The cream I’d put in the soup on Sunday had obviously curdled, giving the soup a distinctly ‘bicarbonate of soda’ after taste.
Realisation made, I dashed for the kitchen to get rid of it.
I had the pot in my hands, almost over the sink, when one sweet young lass caught me in the act. She had watched me unravel in soup-apologies and her politeness instincts were strong: “Seriously,” she said, “I really like unusual soups. Is any left? I’d love to take some home.”
Bless her!!! I’m sorry to say that she took several ladles-ful home with her … I couldn’t stop her!
I could have born it better if someone – any brave Brit – had said: “I’m sorry, but this soup is shite!”
Most. Uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Culinary. Experience. Of. My. Life.
Miraculously, no fatalities.
I hope they return for the second half of the course next Monday or I will be forced to leave the country in shame.
P.s. Next Monday I’m making chicken soup – for the soul – and hopefully I will redeem myself.
P.p.s. Note to self – only add cream just before serving.
P.p.p.s. Life imitates art or art imitates life? Whatever, as always I can find an example in popular media to parallel my life – think ‘blue soup’ and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001).
P.p.p.p.s. On the allotment we planted out several seedlings of golden cherry tomatoes all self seeded from one tomato fallen back into the soil from last year’s harvest. Since July we’ve had tomatoes coming out of our ears. We’ve given bags and bags of them away to friends and neighbours, and also made salads, South African cooked tomato, chilli tomato chutney, tomato paste, tomato juice, frozen tomato and tomato soup. Hubby estimated that we’ve harvested about 13kgs of golden cherry tomatoes this season. We’ve had to buy a chest freezer to accommodate our produce! #truestory
P.p.p.p.p.s. Can you spot the offending pumpkin in the gallery above?