It all started with a delivery – not from Amazon.
After last weekend’s blizzard, my next-door neighbor’s wonderful teenage daughter walked through a foot of snow in our half-plowed driveway with her handsome, strong dog in tow, carrying a green grocery bag.
She couldn’t quite make it to our front door since we hadn’t yet fully uncovered the walk, so I asked her to meet me at the garage door on the side of the house. Still with an unplowed row of deep snow between us, she leaned in and gently handed me the bag.
“My mom says to heat the bread for 10 minutes,” she said sweetly as I peeked and saw a white, antique-looking soup pot with a lid that formed into a pretty point, reminding me a bit of images of the Taj Mahal. With it came some bread and three colorful chocolate cupcakes.
I thanked our young neighbor and asked if her family needed any help shoveling or anything else, and she assured me they’re all set.
“Please thank your mom lots,” I said, and off she and her dog went through the idyllic wintry scene that was then our front yard.
As I walked into my house, setting down the bag excitedly on the kitchen counter, I knew what was in this lovely pot because my neighbor, Laura – a kind and generous woman my age who I’ve been so lucky to get to know during this pandemic – texted me the night before that she was planning to share a meal with us: lamb cassoulet.
This snowy, icy, windy, wet week in my quaint New England neighborhood suddenly took a very warm turn.
“Dave,” I said to my husband. “This looks so delicious, and I cannot wait to eat it. Should we eat it tonight or tomorrow night?”
We were already in the process of making tomato sauce and pasta for dinner, so we decided to save the lamb stew for the next night since we’d have less time to make the homemade spaghetti the following night.
But my five-year-old son made certain that the cupcakes were eaten immediately.
This meal didn’t come because any of us were sick or without food. It came because of thoughtfulness.
Eating each bite felt like the gift it was, and we thoroughly enjoyed trying to determine what went into the glorious pot to become this amazing stew. We savored every taste.
While I was washing dishes, I felt the pot could not go home empty. I had just made a big batch of tomato sauce and meatballs, and I wanted them all to feel the same warm blanket of deliciousness, and friendship, they gave to us.
Later that afternoon, I nestled that white pot into a bank of matching snow on their front porch and let my neighbor know it was waiting for her and her family.
She reached out in thanks and we texted about how grateful we are to be able to share with each other in this way.
While the pandemic has created so much physical distance between many friends and families for so long, the comfort of a friend’s hug through a cozy soup pot and its contents is beyond appreciated – and now a treasured memory of a cold and challenging time.
A few weeks ago, an old girlfriend from college asked several of us on a group text to please share what our soup pots mean to us because she was working on a project for a graphic design class.
She asked: “Do you have a favorite soup pot? What does it look like? What do you associate with it? What do you or someone else make with it? What smells, tastes, sounds, looks do you associate with a soup pot?”
My phone lit up with messages from my very caring and creative college friends, all of whom have varying levels of cooking expertise and interest:
“It’s the pot [my husband] uses to make his red sauce on Christmas Eve … it sounds like our family laughing and the kids running around excited for Santa to come … I also associate it with warm soup bubbling on the stove on a chilly fall day. It was the pot I used to make a (much too salty) pumpkin soup the day you girls came to meet [our daughter] Zelda.”
“I make my great grandmother’s fish chowder in it, which is a recipe I learned just a few years ago from visiting my great aunt in Atlanta. It is very easy, but the best comfort food, and reminds me of family and of growing up in this lovely coastal land of ours.”
“Here’s our soup pot … [my husband] makes curries in it sometimes. It reminds me of our wedding, and my friends who gave it to us.”
“I have a blue Le Creuset, too! It’s the perfect size for rice. We have a long history of burning large Le Creuset pots, so I switched to stainless. When I’m not rapid cooking in my Instant Pot, this is my go-to. Of course, I went to take a pic and found it dirty in the sink😊”
This morning, our lovely neighbor walked back over with a large bowl of chicken and white bean stew – this time during a storm of freezing rain.
Tonight, I can again close my eyes and imagine the spices I’m tasting, knowing this food was lovingly cooked with care while we are beyond thrilled to again be the recipients of another fabulous meal.
It seems a trusty pot can help create a lot more than the dish inside.
Every time I see my own soup pot, or someone else’s, I’ll imagine what’s been and what’s possible.
And we can all watch the magic unfold as we fill, and share, our beloved pots with affection and wonder.
Now it’s your turn: What does your soup pot mean to you?