My friend Eileen has a stovetop with two broken burners. She also has a broken oven, and the last time I was in her kitchen, a broken sink. None of the cabinets in her galley kitchen have doors, so every spice, pound of coffee, and stack of dishes is visible just past the bare, dangling hinges. There is one window sill in Eileen’s kitchen, which she uses to grow tiny plants, and catch sunshine in cut glass. Eileen’s house was built many years ago, her stove is an antique, as are many of her kitchen utensils, her pipes, her shelves, and even the slanting wooden floor that sits underneath it all. Eileen’s kitchen is old and broken and charming and wonderful and has been dearly loved over many years—not unlike Eileen.
The last time I was in her kitchen, Eileen was recovering from shoulder surgery and couldn’t cook much. Of course, that was okay because the kitchen was recovering from the busted pipe and couldn’t cook much either. They were quite the pair, the cook and her kitchen, both a little broken, both temporarily limited, and neither as new as they used to be. But both Eileen and her kitchen were every bit as full of determination, generosity, and goodness. Even though she struggled to do the simplest things using only one arm, Eileen was happy to be making dinner, glad for the extra mouth to feed and smile to share. And even though her poor oven struggled to maintain any temperature at all, it was determined to help.
We worked together to put a very simple meal on the table that evening. We reheated broccoli soup on the stove and warmed leftover quiche in the oven. We cut up a crusty baguette and set the table with butter, salt, and pepper. Sure, it wasn’t the shiniest kitchen or the fanciest food, but our tastebuds didn’t know the difference. We sat around Eileen’s round, wooden table, each with their own brand of brokenness, and together we broke bread. And somehow, even when it looked like there was little to give, so much was received. Somehow, amidst all that brokenness, there was profoundly healing wholeness.
Cream of broccoli soup
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 1/2 cups broccoli, diced
5 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup flour, scant
2 quarts chicken stock, warm
1 cup of heavy cream, warm
- Melt butter in a stockpot over low heat. Gently cook vegetables until almost tender. Add flour, stir, and cook until vegetables are nearly tender. Slowly add 1 1/2 quarts of stock, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. Simmer until vegetables are tender and broth has thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Puree soup in blender. (For extra smooth soup, strain after blending.)
- Return soup to the stove and add more stock to adjust consistency if you prefer thinner soup. Return to a simmer. Add cream. Season to taste with salt to taste.
Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at instagram.com/mandyjgarcia