I have made it through many calendar months of my hitherto short life without having spooned any broth, consommé, stock, or even hot water into my mouth. This is not that unusual. The warm summer months don't put me into much of a soup mood. I prefer a cold drink on a hot day, believe it or not. Occasionally, I'm treated to a bowl of creamy, cold zucchini soup by my better half, or an amuse bouche of gazpacho at a local eatery.
Recently, it came to my attention that January is National Soup Month. It turns out also to be National Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month, and National Slow Cooking Month. The latter I might refer to as National Braising Month, but efforts to reach wider audiences have caused the National Month Naming Committee to go with phrasing that people can understand without having to reach for a dictionary (which, I imagine, not many people possess these days in a form that one has to "reach for"). On the darker side, January is also Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and National Bath Safety Month, the latter reminding us that not everyone has been careful enough when they draw a bath for their wee-little or aging family members. So, lots of causes to be mindful of in January.
Soup is the one drawing my attention these days. First, because the prepared food section of our local supermarket has inexplicably been unable to keep up the quality of their minestrone. It's either a supply chain problem, or a staff retention problem. Maybe both. But my wife won't eat the stuff any longer. Second, because we had a bone-in ham pre-Christmas, which gave me the opportunity to use the bone for French Canadian split pea soup a few days later.
Now that we're in the middle of National Soup Month, I made a batch of chickpea and harissa soup (a.k.a "lablabi"), a Moroccan concoction (say that 10 times fast) that is far spicier than what us New Englanders are used to but is perfect on a frigid day. I've eaten this stuff three times for lunch this week, as my employer has asked me to work remotely until at least January 24th, and I have a kitchen at my disposal. Then, yesterday, in a bold move, my wife served us sausage and spinach soup for dinner. So, although I am no stranger to soup, yesterday was one of the few days in my life when both lunch and dinner were unquestionably soupy.
The beginning of a new year always renews my interest in what the future holds for us human beings, and as usual I'm turning to my trusty old crystal ball to see what it can tell me about the year ahead.
The first thing I notice when I gaze into my crystal ball is that there is a wrinkle in the space-time continuum, which will cause massive flight cancelations, long lines at pharmacies, and workers calling in sick.
No, wait, sorry! False alarm. That's a hair on my crystal ball, not a wrinkle in the space-time continuum. How embarrassing! That's happened to me before. If you don't use your crystal ball regularly, it can accumulate bits of dust and cobwebs and give you incorrect information about the future. The best way to prevent this is to keep your crystal ball stored in the felt liner that it was packed in at the factory. (If your crystal ball didn't come in a soft felt bag, or if you lost the bag, you can rejuvenate the ball with some polish, but I recommend ordering a felt bag immediately or else you're going to be needing a lot of polish over the years.)
OK, back to the stormy future. It turns out that removing that rogue hair didn't change what I see in my crystal ball. So, what could possibly be wrecking the year ahead if not a wrinkle in the space-time continuum?
Oh no. I see nasal swabs. Paper masks. Rubber gloves. 2022 looks an awful lot like the summer of 2020.
Putting my crystal ball away for another year.
I'm starting to wonder if our neighbor up north decided to throw in the towel. "You guys go ahead without me," says Canada, rooting around in an old metal cooler for an ice-cold Molson's and cracking it open with its teeth. "I've had a nice career, but it's time for me to put up my feet and watch 'Hockey Night in Canada'."
Hockey Night in Canada? It's not even Hockey Week in Canada, thanks to the wicked Coronavirus variant du jour, Omicron.
This bodes not well for my Canadian family. I sent a friendly, personal letter to the maple leaf country in the spring of 2021 asking if it would be a terrible imposition for it to verify that my children were bona fide citizens, able to travel freely across the frozen tundra and maybe attend one of the lower-priced institutes of higher education that Canada has on offer. Alas, no response. I had done the same in the spring of 2020 and waited more than ten months before Canada sent back a terse note rejecting the applications on technical grounds: "Your children's photos aren't dated."
Darned Canada and its bureaucratic red tape!
I didn't whine but sent applications anew with dated photos, knowing that arguing with such a large country would be a waste of time. I've tried to argue with countries in the past, and I always lose. Large nations have lots of lawyers who advise them to stall, and an inbox that no one monitors. Plus, Canada is too busy trying to figure out how to make the best use of newly melting artic ice to respond to my queries. The scheme Canada hatched to fill 2-ounce plastic containers and sell each as "a former chunk of iceberg" that is "refreezable" was thwarted when the original bottlecaps it ordered leaked, undermining the marketing message that "tubes of melted iceberg make perfect stocking stuffers." Canada tried to get replacements before the start of the holiday shopping season but were stymied by supply-chain issues. Meanwhile, the ice keeps retreating and there is no room to store additional water. Serves you right, Canada!
I expect that our wintry pal next door will eventually come to its senses and will send me a response along the lines of, "We reject your applications on the grounds that your children's photos are out of date." Though technically true, this is only because Canada has been rooting around for more beer in the ice-filled cooler instead of processing my application.
I cling to a small measure of hope, given that as Canada is settling into its Barcalounger and reaching for the remote, the NHL is postponing all games for a week. Just enough time to open a few more applications and make good on my request.
I'm not known to be a person of violence, but I'm still capable of issuing a voluminous and prolonged bellowing from deep within, completely without warning amid an otherwise peaceful evening, sending the housecats scurrying into closets and under beds and waking the neighbors from their winter slumbers.
There is no anger in my hollering, but that's beside the point. As far as the cats know, I'm really ticked off. Why else would the house shake like it does? Furry animals don't buy into the narrative that the ferocious expelling of air and noise is entirely beyond my control. They've met enough humans who successfully rid their lungs and nasal passages of unwanted irritants with miniscule snorts that are barely audible to the naked ear, so why does a guy like me need to be so damned loud? It's like I'm having a heart attack, as my eyes shut tightly, my head is thrown back, and I explode four or five times. Quick, someone get this man a defibrillator!
Meanwhile, I question how the cats can sleep through the running of shop-vacs, power saws, and backhoes, but a sneeze sends the fur flying.
I don't know why I'm having this argument with myself. It's impossible to understand the behavior of cats anyway.