I had soup last Friday evening, made by a street vendor in the mission district in San Francisco, and on my way home I kept asking myself why soup tastes better a day or two old, rather than just cooked. When I asked that question while I was eating my soup, the street vendor said “Because the ingredients kind of melt together after a day or so, and the flavors come more out.”
So I wondered about our role, as humans, in this process. In this case, the onions would have never been caramelized to begin with, and of course they would have never met with the pureed zucchini to create a delicious organic vegetable soup – just like the cheese that carefully tended to and turned and knocked on and turned again would never become an award winning cheese. Or the wine that gets better ever year, or the balsamic vinegar that has been cared for for 15 or 20 or 40 years. Or the marriage, that, when it grows in the right direction, gets richer and more intimate year after year, and decade after decade.
While at the end nothing lasts, what would long have spoiled in nature can be kept alive, and what is great individually can become fantastic and turned into a new, beautiful, delicious, healthy, and vibrant form because of the attention and energy we give to it.
So when I had that soup last Friday, it was clear that I tasted more than good, organic vegetables that had been blended together well. I was tasting the touch of the cook.
How amazing that we have the capacity to add a secret ingredient to any process we choose. The one thing that make things so good, like soup, and sometimes even makes them last a whole lifetime, like balsamic vinegar, or a really good friendship.