The soup was chilled; the conversation was cold. She remembered this soup. Dinners past. Judith’s favourite, and at one time, her own. She remembered hot, hot, hot summer evenings, the windows thrown open, the smell of stagnant air barely breathing. She, with a good book, only half listening to Judith’s ramblings. She, with a glass of rose, hmming and ahhing at Judith’s poignant remarks while Judith chopped leeks furiously. Mountains of leeks. She could remember their smell, like a refined onion. Rich ribbons of varied green. Dill, too, she remembered. Too much dill in fact (Judith always went overboard). Now, she too wished she could go overboard. Be thrown overboard; escape the chilled soup and cold conversation. Escape Judith. Her hands were cold.
Despite the awkwardness, she enjoyed her first spoonful. It was autumn; it was biting and dark and uninviting and one would not normally want chilled soup; but, yes, she enjoyed that first spoonful. Dipped it in the yogurt topping, felt the tang of lemon rind and dill brighten her tongue. Judith looked at her expectantly.
“Mmm, very good, Judith.” She hated that. How she had to say—immediately—how it tasted. How she liked it. Despite Judith’s overly confident, overly large persona, Judith had always needed constant reassurance. She took another spoonful.
“You’re very quiet,” Judith threatened. “Why?”
“It’s just,” her spoon swirled the light, bright green, “it’s been a while, Judith. I’m not sure what to make of this.”
“There’s nothing to make of this.” Judith’s tone of control; like a mother, she glared. “We are two old friends sharing a meal.” Judith was firm; Judith was certain. “I thought you might like to know about my life. How my life has been. Don’t you ever wonder about me?”
She took another spoonful. Pause.
“Yes. Yes, Judith, I wonder.” Was she lying? Did she actually wonder? Maybe Judith was happily forgotten.
She smiled. “Remember when you used to make this in the summer? Those hot evenings you couldn’t stand. Sweaty, sweaty Judith. I think your sweat literally made it into the soup.” Was she being unkind?
Judith persevered. “Yes, I remembered how much you loved it. That’s why I brought it tonight.”
“Well, it’s very good.”
Silence. A pause. She couldn't help continuing. “One thing, though. You forgot the salmon.” She didn’t look up. She swirled and swirled, her spoon, her soup. “You know. The lovely smoked salmon we used to have with this. It went perfectly. You forgot.” Pause. She had come out on top. “It’s really not the same without it. You know how I love smoked salmon.”
The candles flickered across their steady faces.
She scowled in her bed. Covers pulled tight; the cold seeping in through old doorframes and window creases. You know how I love smoked salmon. You forgot how I loved it most of all. It’s really not the same without it. How had it gone from that to this? She pulled the covers tighter in shame.
9:00 am and so, so dark. She would have thought the blinds were drawn (they had forgotten to draw them), but it was the dark, dark sky that did it. She heard the toilet flush and flashed her eyes closed. Sleeping; she would look like she was sleeping.
Judith clumsily dressed and noisily scratched a note. Judith was much too loud for a stealthy departure (who wouldn’t wake up with Judith in the house?), yet she kept her eyes closed tight. She heard Judith stomping in the street below; heeled boots on cobblestone. She hoped, desperately, that Judith might trip.
Chilled Leek Soup with Lemon-Dill Yogurt
Adapted from Bon Appetit (April 2011)
For the Soup:
2 tbs. olive oil
6 ½ cups thinly sliced leeks (the white and light green of about 5 leeks)
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
4 cups (plus additional, as needed) low-sodium organic chicken (or vegetable) broth
3 tbs. coarsely chopped fresh dill (divided)
Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
For the Yogurt Topping:
¼ cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tbs grated lemon peel (yellow part only)
Small fresh dill sprigs for garnish
Heat olive oil in large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until soft but not brown (5-6 minutes). Add potato and stir to coat. Add chicken stock and turn heat to high. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes (or until vegetables are very soft). Allow soup to cool slightly.
Working in multiple batches, puree soup in blender with 2 tbs. dill. Ensure soup is very smooth. Pour soup into large bowl, season with sea salt and pepper, and cover. Chill for 5 hours.