Making Parsnip Soup
by Ella J. Bell
He came home with a bag of parsnips, and he stood at the door with his bag of parsnips and announced he was making me parsnip soup. I’m going off-piste, he said. Abandoning the recipe and making soup from scratch.
Alright, I said. I lay on the sofa and did a Sherlock Holmes quiz from a book of quizzes I found on the shelf. I put the orange blanket over my feet.
Where did Conan Doyle go to school?
Edinburgh, I think.
How are the parsnips?
I’m putting more wine in.
I looked at the wine bottle. White wine, and we were drinking red, and the white was half-empty. How much did you put in already?
A bit, he said, and shrugged.
Who narrated the Giant Rat of Sumatra?
Nobody, I think.
Correct, I said. Ten points to Gryffindor. How’s the soup?
He shrugged again.
It’s. Well. It’s sort of soup. It’s sort of…thick. Thick soup. We can dip bread in it.
Cool, I said.
I got up and went to have a look at the parsnips.
Ah, I said.
I know, he said.
That is thick, I said.
More like mashed parsnips, really.
Mashed parsnips with wine. And spice. And chillies.
We looked at the parsnips together. I reached for his hand.
Have we got any more stock?
No more stock.
No more stock?
We looked at each other.
More wine? he said
For me or the parsnips?
I sniffed it.
Mulled wine, I said. It’s bloody mulled wine.
It’s parsnips, he said.
Is that a thing?
I had grapefruit wine once, I said.
I think Dad made parsnip wine once. He said it was delicious.
Is this delicious?
Is this parsnip wine?
We looked at each other again.
Taste it, he said. I recoiled.
He took a teaspoon from the draining rack and prodded the parsnips experimentally. A bubble rose where he had poked it, and fell again, a primeval, gelatinous, gloop of a bubble.
I feel like Frankenstein, I said.
You feel like Frankenstein?
Well, no. You’re Frankenstein. You’re Frankenstein and it’s- it’s- alive! I pretended to fall back in horror, hands to my mouth. He lifted the spoon to his.
Delicious, he said.
Are you lying?
I thought so.
I opened my mouth like a baby bird and put out my tongue like a cat.
Tiny bit, I said, through my stuck-out tongue.
Tiny bit like medicine, he promised.
He stuck the spoon into the pan again, and I heard it gurgle.
I’ve changed my mind, I said.
Don’t be a wimp, he said. I dare you.
And so I took the spoon from him, and took a heaped teaspoon from the pan, and ate it.
That’s revolting, I said.
That’s parsnip soup, he said.
Perhaps it will be better if we let it stand a while. Absorb the wine. Cook it off.
We left the parsnip soup on the hob and sat on the sofa. Sherlock’s arch enemy? Conan Doyle’s mentor? Conan Doyle’s driving passion? Place of death?
We finished the quiz.
Do you think we should taste the soup again?
We tasted the soup.
What about sausages for supper instead, he said.
Sounds good, I said.
He did the sausages and I scraped the soup into the bin.
What are you thinking about, I said to him, later, in bed. He was lying across from me with his eyes shut, but I knew he wasn’t asleep. The light from the cars and the lamps came through the curtains.
I’m thinking about soup, he said. Soup’s tricky.