SOUP AND CELEBRATION: Sunday Writing Essential (06/22/14, Smell)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on June 28, 2014 0 Comments

We’re into week three of the series of writing prompts dealing with sensory emotions. This time you’ll be sniffing around for a story, as the focus comes to the sense of smell.

Scent can be a powerful thing, be it the smell of roses, chocolate, your morning coffee, or something a little less pleasant. Smells stir up memories, and in writing are an excellent tool for conjuring images.

For the challenge this week, I want you to pick a smell, either an enjoyable scent, or an unpleasant odor, and use it as a focal point to describe an emotional scene. The scene can be fiction, non-fiction, or in poetic form. But the sense of smell must be the focus of your post, and there must be an emotional context. I don’t want facts, I want feelings.


© 2014 by David Wainland

Our mother, like every other Jewish mother I have known, claimed chicken soup was her specialty.

“My mother makes the best chicken soup.” The gauntlet is thrown and the challenge accepted.

“No, my mother.”

“Wrong, mine!” And so it goes.

In the spring of 1988 my mother passed away, but her recipe remained behind. Not transcribed to paper, rather, in my mind.

From my earliest days I can recall her stooped over the stove, stirring and carefully tending the fatty yellow broth and administering her sundry secret ingredients.

Even as a child in The Bronx I was fascinated by this satisfying, soulful and medicinal concoction. I would stand in her shadow, as close to her as possible and breathe in the heady aromas of boiling chicken, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, beef marrow bone and other vegetables.

“David, stir gently while I make the matzo balls, hand me a ladle, and watch that the soup doesn’t boil over.”

I learned.

Then later, as I grew older, she taught me more, how to peel the turnips, and parsnips, wash the dill, rinse the parsley, crush a bay leaf to let out the fragrance and what a, “Pinch,” of salt meant.

She showed me how to use, what she called, a shumming spoon, the perforated ladle used to remove the scum that forms on the top. Later, as the house warmed to the soup, the tantalizing fragrance filling the small rooms, she would remove the vegetables and make a meal for herself out of those ingredients. After it cooled to room temperature the soup was refrigerated overnight so the fat would rise to the top, harden and make it easier to remove.

The soup was always better the second day served with egg noodles, pieces of the hen and leaden matzo balls.

During the winter of 1987 the doctors discovered that mom had cancer of the lung. They operated on her, but it was too late. The disease spread to her liver and her time on earth became limited. She continued to cook as long as she was able.

“David, stay next to me. Your sister will never learn, but you can.” She tried to pass her recipes onto me though I was an unwilling recipient. I did not want her recipes, I wanted her.

A couple of months before she passed mom made her last soup, dividing it into plastic containers and freezing most of it.

“To remember me by.”

The following September on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we gathered around the table and the starting course was mom’s soup.

Our entire family sipped of her essence.

Every year, on the first night, we gather again, those of us that remain, to celebrate her life and I make my mother’s soup.


About the Author ()

Crafter, writer, artist, retired and I love a good glass of wine.

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