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I once had only eight dollars to buy food for five days.
Top Ramen had been my daily staple for months and I could not bring myself to buy one more case of it.
And then it came to me.
My mouth watered as I recalled my mother’s potato soup. It was buttery and creamy with chunks of potato, ham and bacon
I raced to the store on a mission and was able to buy a large bag of potatoes, a slab of the cheapest bacon, a carton of milk and two butter sticks for seven dollars and forty eight cents.
I drove home with a great sense of anticipation, savoring the thought of the warm soup of my childhood, going back for seconds and thirds
Boiling the potatoes lasted an eternity and it took every ounce of my self control not to devour the chopped bacon I had cooked to perfection.
I was so hungry I folded laundry to occupy my mind.
And then, it was time. Just as I had watched my mother do a thousand times, it was time to check the potatoes to see if they were ready.
Perfection, they gently slid off the fork as I plucked them from the ladle.
This was the moment.
After draining the water from the pot, I tossed the butter into the potatoes and stirred them around to fill my nose with the familiar aroma.
I tossed in the bacon and the aroma that erupted created in me a blissful sigh.
As I poured the milk into the mixture, its proportion grew in size.
The butter began to bead the surface as I churned the ladle up and down and around
It smelled truly wonderful.
As I pulled the first ladle up to fill my bowl I quickly noticed the broth was too thin and I realized I had used too much milk.
Now what! I muttered.
Within seconds my mother was on the other end of the phone with her calm sense of knowing.
She suggested some flour be added to thicken the base and then began to ramble into several topics that were completely irrelevant to me at the moment.
She was beautifully oblivious of the drama I had created in these final moments of culinary perfection.
As I put down the phone, I remembered her solution called for flour and quickly added a generous amount and began to stir as I added salt and pepper.
Pepper was my favorite spice for potato soup.
Eventually I could see the thickening beginning and let it simmer as I toasted some bread.
When I came back to the pot and grabbed the ladle it was stuck in the pot and it took a bit of effort to pull it up and out of the thickening sludge that now occupied the pot.
As I looked into the pot my heart sank.
It was like hardening concrete and the ladle stood straight up when I let go of it.
I yelled and pounded my fist on the table as I dialed the phone for emergency instructions.
The first thing she asked was, “How much flour did you use? You didn’t use more than a tablespoon did you?”
As I looked into the now hardened block of potato soup, I remembered her telling me to use flour but forgot the amount she stated.
When I was stirring it in, it was not thickening fast enough so I added a second tablespoon and then finally, a third.
She told me this was too bad and there was not much to do than start all over.
I hung up the phone in total depression. My food for the week was ruined and I was too prideful to ask her for money to buy more food.
I went into salvage mode in a moment of desperation.
Quickly I start scooping large amounts of the sludge into a spaghetti strainer and put it under the faucet of running water.
Slowly, the sludge melted off the now smaller chunks of potatoes and bacon like an excavation of an artifact.
After enough of the sludge was gone I poured the remaining contents into another pan.
After five or six heaping scoops were strained, I looked into the pan to see what remained.
My great creation had withered by two thirds and the potatoes were mostly small little beads instead of the sharp edged chunks I started with.
Undeterred, I added the remaining milk, bacon bits, and slowly added just a few small pinches of flour for thickening and stirred the soup with great disappointment.
Had it not been for the bacon and pepper, the soup would have been flavorless.