Monday, September 22, 2008

Homesick Hankerings

Four months away, hundreds of interesting, delicious and downright strange foreign foods tried, tested, tasted - and, on one occasion, trashed - and there was still always one food which would haunt me in my dreams, endlessly returning my mind to the comforts of home and a desperate yearning for…

Ma Pea’s homemade Chicken Soup.

The food equivalent of a motherly embrace – nostalgic, comforting, warm, loving – it was just one bowl of the nourishing broth that I craved wherever I was in the world. I could be chowing down decadent grilled lobsters in Belize, tasting new and delicious strains of coffee in the hills of a plantation in Guatemala, drinking my way through dozens of wine varieties in California, competitively slurping down oysters in New York, or being wined and dined in some of the top notch restaurants across the world…but still there remained this little voice in the back of my mind, which whispered “chicken soup…chicken soup…”

It may be difficult to fathom, but it took me less than three weeks into the first port-of-call on my extensive list, Japan, to send an email back (in May) to Ma Pea already adamant that Chicken Soup was my first food request upon my return (in September). Safe to say that five months is probably the longest standing food order I’ve ever had, bar looking forward to Christmas (which, unsurprisingly, I start around June/July time).

Everyone has a dish which their mother made when they were younger which sends them hurtling right back to infancy, dependancy and immaturity. Adult cares and troubles are erased; responsibilities seem distant dreams; for a few blissful moments we are children again.

Mine is without a shadow of a doubt Chicken Soup. It ticks all the right boxes: perfectly filling without being heavy; refreshing, tasty and revitalising; light protein in the chicken, a glorious medley of sumptuous veg (carrots, leeks, onions, celery), and a healthy dose of hydrating, tasty, flavoursome broth. I sit and quietly savour the combinations of flavours. Food tasting is a guaranteed method of quietening this chatterbox soul for a few peaceful minutes – I can only imagine that this is why my mother used to feed me such delicious nosh when I was a highly energetic, inquisitive and talkative youngster.

Dad often jokes that he married my mother for her soups. It shouldn’t really be something to say in jest as, frankly, I’m often worried about bringing boys home in case – following an encounter with one of her particularly famous soups - they fall in love with her over me!

Eyes peeled for the secret recipe – I’ll coax it out of her somehow…

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