How to Make Soup

My sister says, on the phone, ‘sometimes when I talk to mum, it’s hard – you know – to keep the conversation moving forward’.

I know what she means. And I’m relieved it’s not just me who feels this.  I am especially relieved because it is me who mum forgot, not my sister.  

When I talk to mum, blindly, on Skype, our conversations don’t just feel disconnected because of distance and the disconcerting fracture that comes as the internet swoops in and out. Our conversations feel disconnected because mum is.

‘Do you think she could pick us out of a lineup?’ I ask my sister.  My sister isn’t sure. But she reveals a clever trick she employed during a recent call.

‘I propped my phone up on my kitchen counter and made soup as I talked to mum last night, that way I could talk her through the recipe and hold ingredients up to the lens for her to see’.

Sweet potato, butternut and turmeric, she tells me.

‘And then I held the camera to the pan so mum could see it all bubbling.’

I imagine mum’s face as she watched my little sister’s soup, breathy and hot in the pot. I imagine her smiling.  I imagine she might have said she has never eaten a sweet potato before. Like she has said of other very ordinary foods. 

‘Gosh, this is delicious! What is it?’

‘Yogurt, ma.’

‘Well, it’s lovely; I don’t think I’ve ever had it before … have I?’

‘Possibly, mum’.

Mum’s memory is shot, but her interest remains intact. She is always a delighted and engaged listener, even if the stories we tell her slip through almost as soon as we’ve related them, like fine grained rice through the too big holes of a colander.

My sister’s soup-making-on-the-screen wouldn’t work for me though.

I don’t turn my camera on, remember.

Because I am certain my mum couldn’t pick me out of a line up.


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