Saturday, April 22, 2006

To Soup or Not to Soup

Sorry for the delay in posting. I've been having plumbing "issues."

Actually, my house was having the issue; I was just the one charged with dealing with it. My internal plumbing is fine, thank you very much.

However, this problem brought one of my quirks into the light of day again. The first time I was made aware of this idiosyncrasy was when I moved into my house. Friends and family were helping me pack. The person assigned to pack the pantry came upstairs to where I was emptying closets and said, "What's with all the soup?"

I said, "What?"

He said, "I'm packing up the pantry, and I started counting the cans of soup. I found 87 cans." He made it sound like he'd found a stash of cocaine.

I found myself stammering, "I like soup."

He nodded. "So do I. I have three cans in my pantry. Chicken with rice, chicken with noodles and beef vegetable. You have 87 cans."

For the first time ever, I found myself having to put into words my soup fetish (his words, not mine). There are two (no, make that three) times when I buy soup.

I tend to be a little obsessive-compulsive. When I am stressed, this quality becomes enormously exaggerated. Unlike others, who over-shop, over-medicate, over-drink, etc., I buy soup. Yeah, soup.

Face it, there's something very comforting about eating a bowl of hot soup. Chicken soup. Lentil soup. Beef barley soup. Pasta y fagioli soup. Okay, I'm Italian. For those of you not fortunate enough to be Italian, pasta y fagioli is macaroni and bean soup. The Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant chain serves a version of this as an appetizer. It's not the real thing, but it give you an idea of what the real thing is.

My grandmother used to make pasta y fagioli for me all the time. When she knew I was coming to visit, she'd make a fresh batch. After she died, making that recipe was a way to remember her and to feel good. In classic Pavlovian style the trigger eventually evoked the response on its own, and the act morphed into my making the soup to feel good when I was feeling stressed or upset.

I used to make my own pasta y fagioli. Then I discovered Progresso had a version of it. It's not exactly like Grandma's. So I doctor it and, in twenty minutes, I have a fair approximation of Grandma's soup. Lots of carbs. Carbs boost serotonin levels. Believe me, after a bowl of pasta and Great Northern bean soup, you can't help but feel better.

Through the years, it has become more and more difficult to find that particular Progresso soup. First they stopped calling it "Pasta y Fagioli" and started calling it "Macaroni and Bean." Then a lot of stores stopped carrying it. Which brings me to the second reason I had 87 cans of soup.

There is only one store currently carrying Progresso Macaroni and Bean soup in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I know. I emailed Progresso to ask. So, every time I am in the vicinity of that store, I buy two or three more cans (at almost $4 a can). Which is why I currently have 21 cans of it in my pantry. It represents a significant percentage of my personal net worth. I wonder if you can shelter an investment like that in an IRA?

The third reason I had the 87 cans is that my family and friends were moving me in December. Although I was born in New York City, I spent the bulk of my childhood in Florida. The Sunshine State. Where it's warm. When I moved to Texas, I was unprepared for the cold winters. I was also very poor. I had only open-toed shoes and no real winter coat. I spent that first winter trying to avoid walking in snow and responding to people who asked, "Aren't you cold in those shoes and that little jacket?" I would say, "Oh, no. I love the cold weather." Then I'd go home and eat soup for dinner to try and get warm again. Today when I'm cold, I instinctively reach for the soup--not coffee, not tea, not cocoa.

Soup is a very economical meal when you're poor. I ate a lot of it back then. It's also fast and easy. Now that I'm working out of my house and not wanting to be distracted, I eat soup for lunch most days. In the winter, I make fresh soup and freeze it. Many times, however, for convenience sake, I fall back on a can. No Campbell's for me. I'm strictly a Progresso or Wolfgang Puck lady.

All of this came back to me yesterday when the plumber asked, "Hey, lady, what's with all the soup in this pantry?"

I replied, "What are you talking about? There aren't more than 50 cans in there."


Moncrief Speaks said...

Nicely written.

Maya said...

Thanks, Moncrief.

Diane at said...

Maya, I am having the same problem. My son loves this soup, but it is impossible to find. When I lived in NY, I had no problem finding it. Then I moved to Las Vegas, and can't find it anywhere. When visiting my boyfriend's family in Michigan, I was able to find it at ONE of the VG's (not all), but now, this year, it seems they no longer carry that variety. What is up with that??!! I have the same gripe with Tazo Earl Grey Tea, which I can now only buy at Whole Foods, even though the grocery stores carry all the other varieties of Tazo Tea. Anyway, enjoyed your blog. Guess I am not the only frustrated soup hunter and i can totally relate to your stockpile of soup. I do see that I can order it online, but hate to pay the shipping.