My father’s chicken noodle soup isn’t really what I would classify as food. It’s more of an experience. The kind-of meal that occupies all of my senses and causes my mind to string together a long line of stories. Years of family traditions and shared Sunday afternoons all connected through the scent of chicken and freshly cut vegetables. The kind-of dinner that makes me lose track of time- not hours, not days, but years.
My father boils the chicken first, letting the juices seep into the broth and bond them with the flavor. The scent of it fills the whole house and I find my mouth watering when I’m not paying attention. Watching him cut the vegetables, I can trace the line of my grandmother’s hands as she guided his in her own kitchen so many years before. The legacy of his family told through recipes and ingredients.
I imagine the stories she would have told him, of the long, hard winters my great grandparents faced in Siberia and the warmth they would have felt from a hot bowl of soup. If I look closely I can see the lines of her smile on his face when he laughs. I would sit and watch my father work, my imagination running wild with fur-clad iron men riding horses through the frozen tundra and large, matronly women warming their stone kitchen floors with ashes.
The noodles come last, rather an afterthought when the food is done. You have to keep them separate, my father warns me, lest they soak up the flavor from the broth. He fills my bowl for me. Even when I am older, I ask him to do it. It tastes better that way.
And when I spoon that first bite into my mouth, my whole body warms. It’s as if a light has been sparked inside of me and I feel it spread outwards, settling into the tips of my fingers and toes. I smile at my father, at this feeling he has given me, as he asks me “How is it?”
I tell him it’s delicious. It tastes like love.