A week is too long to think about the subject matter and form of a final project, and all the hot showers in the world were not helping me come up with any new ideas. I’d scrub every other contemplation from my mind night after night in my homemade sauna, and still, nothing new trickled out of my head. The same old thought clogged my brain. Blog. I spent some quality time with my favorite band, hoping their eclectic juxtaposition of bass and bagpipes would loosen the mental obstruction, burst a pipe, do something. My whole life started backing up. As I read the last of Wuthering Heights for the fourth time in just as many years, my to-do list stared me mockingly in the face.

“There’s no further point in thinking,” it told me. “Just look how I’ve glutted myself on bowls and bowls of your inaction. Best soup I ever had.”

The suggestion of blogging came from Maye, a friend and colleague who happens to be a fan of my music as well as my cooking. The trouble was it had no substance. It needed something. The idea itself was insipid and unpalatable. It had potential, much like canned broth, but what seasoning could I throw into it? Was it missing black pepper or bay leaves? Should the starch be potatoes or noodles? And did I still have some shredded carrots to add some color, or had I used the rest of them in the venison stir fry Maye and I had just collectively cooked and consumed?

The solution was simple: I needed to use what I already had in the fridge, and I needed to stir it.

Two days after sending an e-mail, I visited my professor. “My skill set outside of writing is rather limited,” I explained. “I cook and knit. Other than that, I’m not remarkable in any sense.” As a fellow soup connoisseur, Dr. Mary Wendt and I had already conversed about our mutual appreciation of and frequent indulgence in soup. We discussed Julie and Julia, a work I haven’t had the pleasure of indulging in.

“There needs to be a twist to this food blog, and something like that might work. You could try all of the pastas, or all of the different kinds of one particular food.” This was a welcome pinch of salt to the inert pan of water on the stove. It wasn’t boiling, but at least it was a change.

“I’ve been living alone for about a year and a half, ever since I came to grad school,” I informed her. “It’s my first time on my own.”

“It’s hard to cook soup for one person.” I nodded. “So, since you live alone, why don’t you blog soup recipes for one person?”

“Is that even possible?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, each recipe could make more than two servings.”

Her words lit a burner in my brain and set my thoughts stewing.

“I’m going to need a two-quart pan,” I commented, “and a title.”

Apparently, soup lovers are title haters. Coming up with the right phrase to capture something so profoundly simple as a blog about soup recipes for people living alone, seasoned with the musings of the chef and customer, poses a challenge. It’s like trying to make cream of potato soup without the cream. “You prefer chicken, so could do some kind of Chicken Soup for the Soul thing,” Mary stated.

“Hold on, hold on,” I said. “What about Chicken Soup for the Sole, as in S-O-L-E? Like, sole as in single person.”

My thoughts were at a pleasantly rolling boil, seasoned with anticipation. The idea was four-star. As an English major, I hardly expected to be assigned cooking, let alone eating. I bowled up my thoughts and let them coagulate, reading in the interim, which brings me to the moment of truth, the one where I set down the rules for this culinary excursion. Serenaded by my favorite band, my fingers dance across the keyboard, my mind at a steady simmer, and I write myself a briefing:

Operation: Chicken Soup for the Sole

Your mission, should you choose to accept: Blog for the next fourteen weeks (and beyond?) about soup recipes for a single person using your soon-to-be purchased two-quart pan (without which this saga will be impossible). Pair with some warm, crusty, multi-grained thoughts, reflections, and recollections for extra substance. There are three rules to the soup:

  1. Each soup must include chicken as an ingredient.
    1a: All soups do not necessarily have to use a chicken base. Other bases (e.g., cream, tomato) will also be permitted.
  2. Each soup must yield no more than 4 servings.
  3. As the word “chicken” is typically paired with another ingredient (examples: Chicken noodle soup, chicken rice soup, chicken tortilla soup), no second ingredient can appear more than twice within the course of this 14 week period.
    3a: The aromatics of onion, celery, and carrots, as well as seasonings, are exceptions to this rule, as they are flavorings and rather than focuses.
    3b: Should the blog stretch beyond this fourteen-week trial run, this rule will no longer be in effect.

I’ve done good work today, cooking up this first blog entry. If nothing else, this promises to be one hell of a delicious semester.

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