My dad died unexpectedly a few months ago. He was a secure anchor in our lives and we’re all still somewhat adrift in the shock.
Yet with March 7th approaching, I’ve felt the need to process some of this loss by writing about it in my food blog. Is that weird? Probably.
Is there a “right” way to deal with the grief of losing your dad? I don’t know.
What I do know is I’m not ready to really write about missing my dad. I may never be up to that.
But I was feeling ready do something that makes me think of him — and gives the boys and me a reason to talk about him. And I can write about that.
My dad grew up in rural Wyoming. He was a driven student and athlete who broke the traditions of late-1950s rural life to head to college, then serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force and get his MBA, and eventually become a successful financial executive. He travelled extensively for work when my sister and I were growing up. I was always so proud of him and felt very lucky that he was my dad. He was intelligent and funny, well-read and well-dressed. He had sophisticated tastes in films, books, music, and food. He taught himself about wines and accrued an impressive wine collection. After retirement, he devoted even more time to travel, reading and his wine collection; and taught himself to grill an excellent steak and enjoyed hosting fabulous wine-tasting dinners with my mom.
That said… he wasn’t all that highbrow. He had a penchant for telling bad jokes (but he told them very well). He loved Blazing Saddles and all the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. And his very favorite meal? Campbell’s tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
“Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich” — that meal will forever make me think of my dad.
I’m still so sad, but thinking of funny things about him makes me feel a little better. Feeding my boys something they like always makes me happy. And any reason to talk about and remember Papa with them is invaluable.
If I can get all that and do it without feeding them white bread, Velveeta, and Campbell’s soup (whose ingredients include High Fructose Corn Syrup, Potassium Chloride, Flavoring, Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, and Monopotassium Phosphate) — even better!
So I set out to find an all-natural version of the classic tomato soup that would be a hit with the boys. Much to my joy/dismay, I discovered my old pal GP has a recipe for “Easy Tomato Soup” in her most recent cookbook It’s All Easy. (Yes, the over-use of the word “easy” made me suspicious as well…. But it actually is pretty easy.)
EASY TOMATO SOUP (serves 4-6)
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 T tomato paste
- 5 large fresh basil leaves
- 16oz can whole tomatoes with their juice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons cream
- heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat
- add the onion and salt, cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes (lower heat if needed; don’t let the onions brown)
- add the garlic, tomato paste and basil leaves and sauté for 2 minutes
- add the tomatoes and juice, breaking the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, and the chicken stock.
- bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes
- use an immersion blender to blend the soup in the pot
- OR, if like me you don’t have an immersion blender — birthday coming up! hint hint! — let the soup cool 20-30 mins, transfer it in batches to a blender and puree, then reheat
- season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in the cream
- serve and listen to “yum” noises from the soup slurpers
The sandwich part was easier: my whole-wheat bread machine bread is a nice light texture. Butter the bread, add a thick layer of thinly sliced organic cheddar, and fry it up in a pan in lots of butter.
I enjoyed this experiment and the guys enjoyed the food. Today, March 7, 2017, would have been my dad’s 74th birthday. I like to imagine the boys and I had been able to invite him and my mom over for a celebratory dinner — and how we would have surprised him with this birthday meal.
Then I laugh, because I’m pretty sure I know what he would have said: “It’s good… but seems like a lot a work just for a bowl of tomato soup.”
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.