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I was looking through soup recipes today, and went on to imagine how each would taste and smell, the thyme, the garlic, the meat rolling off the bone, the simmered fat, the pillowy potatoes, and why and how I cooked soup…because sometimes I did it for unusual reasons. Like the time I wrote about cooking soup just after my uncle lost his battle with cancer.

And in a coincidence, I read a Mother’s day story by a blog friend, all revolving around a mother making soup.

This reminded me of the time I had taken part in a Blogfeast: it was a Blogfest on Food...and I wrote this fiction excerpt, in which the soup takes centre stage:


She looked out from the pale intensity of her being, her face neither man nor woman, neither happy nor sad, neither silent nor yet unspeaking for her eyes said what her lips did not as she stirred the pot of soup. Her upper lip pursed over the lower, her square jaws tight on her unwrinkled but leathery face, she looked up from her pot at the wall behind me, and then back to her cooking. Her left hand wiped itself on her dull, tattered apron, and reached for the thyme she had chopped and left on the block of wood she used as a cutting board. With her right hand she stirred, never looking up, her short curly hair falling over her brow and her eyes, making of her gaze a secret thing, a secret also of her cooking.

Under the thyme, I could smell the chicken (I had spotted it running out in her backyard not two hours ago when I entered her hut slung on her shoulders,) which had now become simply flesh and bone, food, nourishment. It had lost its blood, been made to give up its feathers, and now lay simmering in her crock-pot, the water bathing its unfeeling skin, its fat melting slow and easy, mating with the salt and pepper. For a minute I forgot her, my rescuer, and focused on the chicken I could not see. I could imagine its bones, and I knew its marrows will do me good, force a bit of warmth into my muscles, expand my stomach, give it something to linger over other than its steady fare of water, dirt, and roots for the past weeks.

She had not spoken to me, the woman who bent into the river and fished me out, who murdered her chicken for my sake. I could see plenty of smoked fish she could have eaten, so I assumed the soup was in my honor, to work on me on the inside as the poultices and bandages joined and soothed on the outside. My bed of rags must be hers, for I could see none other in the room.
I watched her as she dropped potatoes and carrots into the pot, and they fell with soft swishes and plops. Still she did not look up and greet my eyes.

I wanted to read her look, but had to content myself with watching her as she dipped her finger in the pot, snatched it back to her lips, sucked it and added a pinch of salt with her right hand. Her lips became slack as she let go of her finger, and on her face spread the faraway look of a mother suckling her child, her jaws fell, and for an entire minute I watched her as she let the steam rise from the pot and dot her brows with shining beads, of mingled sweat and soup.
She did not feel my look, or ignored it if she did, for her eyes stayed inside the pot, as if she were cooking the soup from the heat of her eyes and her mind and not over a fire. I tried to speak, but my lips felt sealed with something like mud, and my arms Β too weak to lift my hand, touch my own face. The afternoon light from the windows receded. Over the bubbling of the soup and the roar of the river in the gorge beneath her kitchen, I heard footfalls.
I felt too weak to react or move, so I did nothing to alert her. The soup had entered me through my nostrils and now played with each tendril of emotion in my being, toyed with nostalgia, and for a minute in the rising aroma of the chicken soup I could sense my mother, the woman who must have given birth to me, some time some place, and then left me for dead on the jungle floor. The door behind her opened with a sigh, and still my rescuer did not look up.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • PencilGirl says:

    I love how you can create an entire atmosphere with just a few words. I almost see the old woman, and smell the soup, even as I sit in my messy little room, staring at the screen.. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
    You’ve left me hanging out my tongue, panting for more, wanting to know what’s next.. πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

    • Damyanti says:

      Pencil Girl, I hope I always have you for my reader. You make me smile and blush every time you comment. Thanks for being a bright spot in my day.

  • The soup smell described was so real. I actually began to smell our holiday Chicken Soup, and made me wish I some now, even though it’s 8am.

    Damyanti, thanks for being my “blog friend”!

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks, Stuart. I could smell the soup when I wrote it, because in my head I was in that room, touching, feeling, seeing, living everything. Thank You for being my blog friend too. I sometimes find my blog friends understand me better than those in real life.

  • Your stories of themselves fascinate me β€” so full of meaning, no word redundant, colour and sound, smells and taste entering my mind, stimulating my senses and a profound emotional response flowing from my heart. Each tale is a masterpiece, a work of art to grace the walls of my inner world. You, Damyanti, are a true artist, painting masterpieces with words that come from the heart. This is yet another moving picture to be treasured.

    • Damyanti says:

      Gladys, I hope I grow to deserve your comments some day. I’m still an apprentice hack-worker, but hope to do a piece I can be proud of some day. Thank you so much for your kindness and the inspiration you provide with your comments.

  • You really did make soup front and center stage in this story. It is amazing what you seem to be able to do with the most simplistic subjects such as food. This goes to show how you can take something like soup and turn it into the glue that holds the story together.

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks Nicole. πŸ™‚

      I really really wish I could comment on your blog though…I feel lousy I never get to comment back on your excellent posts, because every time I comment I get a blank page!

  • Arlee Bird says:

    Interesting vignette. Now I want to know what’s going on and what happens next.

    Tossing It Out

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