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Fierce Soup

I've just learned from a William Safire column that it is no longer cool to say that someone is hot — as in, Wow, that guy/girl is hot. The new word now is fierce.  It's a lot of pressure to be cool and I'm not sure I'll ever get used to fierce as the new hot. I was thinking about this while making soup — vegetable beef (easily adapted to veggie) — that requires a certain fierceness to put together. It also needs to be served hot, as in temperature. I've been looking for something to keep my mind off the tumbling financial markets…

I don't know about you, but when times get unendingly tough I feel like I should be doing great, wise, and noble things all day to make up for the world's messes. So putting beef shank into a pot and covering it with water to begin the stock doesn't seem like a good use of my time when there are perfectly good canned soups I can buy. But the simple fact that homemade stock is being created on my back burner soon becomes a gentle comfort in a coarse world.

A few hours later, I take out the meat and bones and pour the liquid through cheesecloth to get rid of the (I'll use the technical kitchen term here) muck. And as I do this I think how nice it would be if life came with cheesecloth so we could strain the muck out when needed. I am beginning to feel a fierce contentment rise as I do this homey, wondrous thing. Not once have I thought about Wall Street greed or banks failing or political blame. But as I begin the great chopping of vegetables, I begin to wonder. Should I have begun this soup? It's taking more time than I remembered.  I'm thinking now about all the things I should be doing and feeling bitter about people like Oprah Winfrey who have personal chefs. My kitchen is a mess, I smell like stock, and I haven't showered. But I add salt and pepper to the pot, plunk the vegetables in, wondering if I added too many. Too late now. I shower as the aroma of My Homemade Soup wafts through the house. Max, my puppy, sniffs the air excitedly. I return to the kitchen, toss Max a little piece of beef — he's overcome. I taste my soup — oh, it's good. I actually shout to my husband, "Oh, darling, soup is ready!" I serve it up in big blue bowls; realize all the spoons are dirty; wash two; sit down with Evan, and for a few precious minutes the crazy world seems really not to matter.