I knew I would be spending this afternoon with a dear friend, Laura, the girl I sat next to as we graduated from Duke in 1985. She’s in considerable anguish having lost her love to cancer, her soul, the man who’s heart she carries her heart, to use ee cumming’s famous words. Harry, a lovely, brilliant, funny and delightful man, gone at 58. There are no words adequate to offer, only one’s presence. And soup.
I roasted a chicken last night, ate some for dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but saved most of it, and all the bones, to carry on the subway along with 4 carrots, 2 onions, celery, three tomatoes a bay leaf, to the upper east side.
I set to work immediately, getting the bones boiling (I didn’t have much time, so with a rolling boil more flavor comes out faster and fat is emulsified into the stock enriching it, fine for a simple soup). After a 20 minutes in went the chopped vegetables. I cut remaining onion, celery and carrot, as well as the chicken pulled from the bones, as garnish for the finished soup.
Laura and I talked. She busied herself with plans for Monday’s service, adding paper to the guest registry book, things like that. Every now and then she’d break into heaving sobs, which is par for the course after such a recent loss of someone you feel completed you. But the kitchen soon filled with the smell of roasted chicken and sautéing onions. And we talked lightly of other things as well as Harry, her kids, my kids, my upcoming wedding. She read me her eulogy. More tears. But also there was the need to check the stock for seasoning, stir the sautéeing onions. Such comfort in those smells, and simple diverting acts.
I strained the stock after about an hour of cooking into the pot of cooked onion, carrot, and celery. Added the chicken and cooked pasta, set the burner to return it to a simmer.
In her bedroom, Laura has created a small shrine to Harry, with meaningful items, one of which was a framed poem, the ee cummings poem that begins: “I carry your hear with me (I carry it in my heart).” Where ever he goes she goes. It was a poem my beloved first read to me, but she was on her way into the city. Laura is left alone to carry his heart in hers.
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
I found Laura in the kitchen and held her and wept for her and with her. Then we opened a bottle of wine, and I ladled chicken soup, golden with fat, into two small bowls and we ate and we talked easily.
I carry your heart (I carry your heart in my heart)
Chicken Soup for Laura
1 roasted chicken carcass, plus the breast and leg meat from half of it cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, rough chopped
2 large carrots, rough chopped
2 stalks celery, rough chopped
3 roma tomatoes or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
2 medium carrots cut into discs
2 stalks celery, sliced
1-1/2 cups past
In a big pot, cover the carcass with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a medium boil. After 20 minutes add the large onion carrots. Continue to boil for 40 more minutes or so.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the oil, then the medium onion and carrot and sliced celery. Sauté until tender. Remove from the heat. Add the chicken and a few handfuls of posta
Strain the stock into the sauce pan, bring to a simmer. Serve