Today I made a great big pot of turkey meatball soup. Before every semester, I make big batches of a few different kinds of soup and freeze them so I have something I can eat for lunch that I’m not allergic to, so I’m not inflicting this stuff on my family, which is a good thing, because I don’t even know if it’s any good, or if the reason I love it so much is pure unmitigated nostalgia.
Perhaps nostalgia isn’t quite the right word, but I don’t know if there is a word for what I feel for turkey meatball soup. When I was ten, my illness was finally diagnosed, and I began treatment. At the time, my immune system was in such poor shape that there were only a very small number of foods I could eat, turkey, rice, salt, grapes, spinach, scallions, and oregano. This became even worse once I became dangerously allergic to grapes. By the time I could begin to add other foods to my diet, I was so thoroughly sick of all of these foods that I didn’t eat rice for years, for example, and I still hate turkey in every form but gravy, and strangely enough, turkey meatball soup. I ate it every day for breakfast for more than a year. When the time came that I didn’t have to eat it anymore, I didn’t even want to look at it. Then, I years later, I started craving it. I made it today with no idea what to expect. I added pearl couscous to make it a little more filling, but other than that, it’s exactly like what I ate every morning, turkey broth, ground turkey, scallions, spinach, and oregano. And as soon as I took the first bite, it all came rushing back.
In retrospect, it wasn’t a good year for me. Not only were the foods I could eat limited, but so were their amounts. Even as my immune system became healthier, the rest of me sickened. I was constantly hungry. My hunger drove my mother on the phone to my doctor at least weekly, crying, because she couldn’t feed her child. Also, I was trying to catch up on ten years worth of social skills overnight, and painfully shy from being bullied at my previous school. It's no wonder this was the year my first stalker would attach herself to me.
But this isn’t what I taste when I eat turkey meatball soup. Turkey meatball soup tastes like sanity. It tastes like my brain waking up for the very first time. It tastes like discovering books and trying to read them while I ate on school days before my mother saw them and too them away so I wouldn’t be late. They taste like getting up early on Saturday mornings to go to the doctor, knowing that I would come home feeling weak and sick, but that there was a book the Rabbi had lent me waiting for my Sunday in bed. It tastes like Sundays in my bathrobe, with my parents at the table. It tastes like everything’s going to be okay, and no matter what the problem is, I’ll get through it. So no, I have no idea if my turkey meatball soup tastes good. I just know it tastes right.