My Father's Soup by Ana Vidosavljevic

My Father's Soup

My father was not the best cook ever. He could fry eggs, fish, sausages, make barbecue and warm up yesterday's dinner. Somehow, he always managed to over-fry everything but we, his family, didn't mind. However, making a soup was his supreme skill, and he was unbeatable in this particular task. The art of making soup was his own invention, no one had taught him and even though my grandma Lena, his mother, claimed that she had showed him how to make a good soup when he had been a child, he didn't want to admit this was true, but he also never said it was not. Anyway, I have never tasted better soups than the ones he made.

My father's soups, tasty and warm, nourished our souls in cold winter evenings. They often were the medicine for our cold and fever, when we were not able to eat anything else, and these delicious soups were something that comforted us when we were not in our best moods. There was nothing a warm bowl of my father's soup couldn't fix. It was our comfort food. Prepared with love.

My father made a soup almost every day. He had his favorite soup pot that he claimed was magic. He would fill this pot with cold water and put it on the stove over medium heat. Then, he added two or three spoons of vegetable oil and let the liquid get warm while he was cutting a few carrots, parsley, five garlic cloves and one small onion. As soon as he cut the vegetables, he put them in the oily water. Then, he added a couple of chicken wings and thighs. He added also a bit of salt and pepper and brought it to boil over high heat. After half an hour, he reduced the heat to low, covered the pot and let the soup simmer until the chicken parts were cooked through. Even though the soup was still not ready, the heavenly smell of it provoked me to stay close to the stove and breathe in deeply. It was not only my palate that was enriched when I removed the lid and smelled the soup, but also my mood.

I often checked the soup while it was simmering and wanted to see if the chicken parts were cooked. I removed the pot lid and stabbed the meat with a fork over and over again to make sure it was soft. My father let me be his little helper, his sous chef.

Once I decided that the meat was soft and cooked through, and my father double-checked it, he would remove it from the pot, shred the thighs and wings with two forks and chop the meat into bite-size pieces. Then, he would return them to the pot. I usually gave the bones to our dog Maza, who loved chewing them. Maza kept them as her treasure and to make sure no one took them from her, she often buried them in the ground and dug them up again after a few days.

After my father returned the meat into the pot, he added the noodles to the soup and stirred the mixture another ten minutes. He removed the pot from the heat, took a spoon and tried it even though it was hot and gave off steam. If he found out it was not salty enough, he added more salt, but often it was perfect as it was and ready to be eaten.

The soup, simple and delicious, usually lasted until the next day. And the next day, before making another soup, my father would warm it up and finish it. Simplicity of its preparing and the care of its maker was what made it special. It added an extra flavor that we all remembered many years later when my dad passed away. It is amazing how the most simple things are the most evocative.

In his honor, I've tried making his soup. And even though sometimes it tastes pretty good, it is never as good as his soup. But it is always eaten with dear people and that fact gives my soup the taste that resembles the one my dad used to make.

Ana Vidosavljevic from Serbia currently lives in Indonesia. She has her work published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt (Scar Publications), Literary Yard, RYL (Refresh Your Life), The Caterpillar, The Curlew, Eskimo Pie, Coldnoon, Perspectives, Indiana Voice Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Setu Bilingual Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Madcap Review. She worked on a GIEE 2011 project: Gender and Interdisciplinary Education for Engineers 2011 as a member of the Institute Mihailo Pupin team. She also attended the International Conference “Bullying and Abuse of Power” in November 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, where she presented her paper: “Cultural intolerance.”

Two Stories by Lorraine Wilson

Lakshmi

She is a trinket, really. Probably haggled for obligatorily at some morning market, flies in the air and the scent of spices, uncooked meat, languages weaving into one another and my grandad’s pale skin always noticed, always odd.

I don’t even remember seeing it in his house, I imagine it boxed away amongst dust-gathered mementos of a life reluctantly left behind. But to see her, brass-cast goddess, hands raised and foot shining from the supplication of my fingers, to see her is to remember. My childhood was filled with stories, you see. Stories scattered with Hindi and Urdu and the crumbs of cake slices scattered around my knees. They were chital deer and tiger prints in monsoon mud, they were dirt roads and they were the smell of flowers beneath a midday sun.

She is the goddess of things that I do not really value but she is more than that, she is memory too, sublimated from my cells into her and given weight, given form, and it is this that she holds delicate-winged in her tarnished hands. A lost father refound, old abandonments forgiven, the tracery of genetics and distant homes that surfaces on my skin; moments. Moments with him and then the moments without. She has heard me weeping and seen me love, and she smiles for me now, above a fire that lends her limbs some tiny remnant of her native heat, and even when all our pasts are parceled away I will want her with me to tell me this: The world is vast and it is small; full of loss and wonder and stories you have not yet heard, and you belong to all of it.

This Dead Sheep

A half-old dead sheep in the hollow of a burn. She did not startle when we appeared, which was perhaps not surprising, but we were never quite sure about these things. We had come to the soft black edge of a bank to stare down into the burn, mountain stream whispering and racing its way down between rocks and peat and heather. We did not startle either, my sister and me, but there was a whisper-frisson of recognition between the sheep who was dead and us, who were not.

She had died in the water, soft ochre hill-water that had tugged her wool away from ribs exposed by ravens and the winter and stained a yellow that could have been hellish but was almost spring-like. It ran between her bones, the water, and must have been cold when she lay dying, must have made her leaden and gravitous but now it stroked her smooth, tickling at the curves and edges of her fondly, remnants of wool water-dancing.

Scrambling down through heather and black peat, water cut, the wind kept moving but we were beneath it there, stroking horns and bared bones with our fingers, with crystals blinking beneath the tannin water and above us, the sky in amongst the mountains was a gift we could have cupped in our hands. The burn cackled and spoke memories of death borne down the hill and we’d been drinking her, we realized. We laughed and the water laughed, at all the slow decay of her that had passed into the pipes and then to us.

Above the peat but beneath the sky, heather flowers shone constellations, a faerie mist slid windward hiding secrets and we felt we knew the sheep’s secrets too. Somewhere other sheep were calling but they were not here, where we were, kneeling in the stone-spangled earth and whispering to her who was surely a part of us now, drunk in and absorbed into the cells of our limbs. We had her death in our bones, cradled there so that even though she died alone and cold, she was neither, any more.

We wanted to carry her skull with us, wanted to bear her down to our parents like a queen, like proof, like a greeting. But she did not wish to come. Her empty sockets, ghosts of eyes, watched us reproachfully, black-edged teeth moving in silent speech and her horns were the perfect curve for the shape of my palm but she did not wish to come. We had already drunk her memories and her death, and so I supposed that she was content then, to let us carry those away with us while her gone eyes watched the mountain-tops and filled up with heather.

Perhaps she is still watching up there where she fell. She is still in my bones.

 

Having spent many years working in remote corners of the world, Lorraine Wilson now lives by the sea in Scotland and writes stories that are touched by folklore and the wilderness. She has had short stories published in several magazines and anthologies and tweets @raine_clouds about science, writing, cats and weirdnesses.