Monday, October 24, 2011
Distant Gunfire Broccoli Soup
West view, from site of future artillary emplacement
My husband and I were sitting outside on the deck in the glorious California Indian Summer, enjoying a bowl of soup made from his own organic broccoli, the recipe for which I shall include below. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was a gentle little breeze from the west with just the slightest edge of chill to it. Suddenly, from the woods in the canyon to the east of the house, gunfire erupted. This was not the simple pop of a .22 rifle. This was the chatter of a huge-bore semi-automatic Something, geared to mass extinctions.
It’s a testament to our sang-froid that we scarcely missed a beat in our conversation. We were fairly certain we weren’t under attack. It was just our closest neighbor to the east, Vernon, trying out his latest hedge against invasion. It was he who, when admiring our western view, which extends for a hundred miles, commented that our front lawn would be a perfect site for a howitzer emplacement. And here I’d been thinking of that as a good spot to tuck in some more lavender bushes!
David and I were discussing Presidents, over our soup. The first one he could remember was FDR. Truman was President when I was born, but the first President I remember was Eisenhower and I still have an I Like Ike button among my memorabilia, even though my parents were staunch Adali Stevenson supporters, despite his drawbacks of being (gasp!) divorced and (double gasp!) an egghead.
I was quoting Ike’s famous warning regarding the military-industrial complex when Vernon’s target practice commenced, right on cue. David and I supped to intermittent bursts of various calibers of small arms fire, as our discussion shifted to the merits of gun ownership.
East, looking into Vernon's canyon
Now, I am of that oft-quoted variety of gun owner from whose cold, dead hands my gun will have to be pried. I grew up with guns; started shooting when the rifle was longer than I was; am a deadly shot; and always keep a loaded varmint rifle next to my armchair, and a .38 under my bedside table, should trouble happen to arrive closer in.
David, on the other hand, whose original fondness for guns could have been registered somewhere on a scale from Tepid to Luke Warm, lost interest in them completely in Vietnam, 14 miles from the DMZ. It seems he was up on a roof, replacing corrugated metal that had been ripped off by a monsoon, from whence he looked straight down into an operating theater in which someone was having his shattered leg sawn off with a hand saw. And that was that. A lifelong aversion to weapons was born.
Please don’t imagine my attitude is all bravado. I have the healthiest respect for guns. I keep fresh in my heart my father’s words to me, as, for the first time, he handed me the .22 rifle I still use: “Always remember, you can kill someone with this.” And I recall also the corollaries to that, from my former father-in-law, a genuine soldier of fortune, who saw CIA-shrouded action in any number of hot spots around the globe: “Remember, if you point a gun at someone, you’ve got to be prepared to pull the trigger;” and, “Don’t try to get fancy; shoot for the chest, it’s the biggest part.” And also the words of Miller Sardella, our handsome cowboy Sheriff for many years who said, smiling graciously at me through his handle-bar mustache, “Honey, if anyone ever bothers you, up there on the mountain, you just shoot ‘em an’ drag ‘em into the house. I’ll do the rest.”
Ninety-nine point nine nine nine percent of the time, one never needs to think about arcane matters like weaponry. But then comes the day or night when there’s a rabid fox in the yard; or a serial killer dumps a couple of bodies within a few miles of the house; a door distinctly opens and closes, downstairs, after lights-out; or, by the light of the moon, several someones in a couple of pickup trucks come to carry away one’s winter wood supply. Since the response time from the Sheriff’s office to our house is about 35 minutes, flat out and in good weather, alternatives to law enforcement intervention spring readily to mind and to hand. There have been but a few times, but memorable ones, when, in my bathrobe, a double-barrel shotgun in hand, I’ve stood on the 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution in my sheepskin slippers and held my ground.
The current political maelstrom in this country brings that amendment very currently to mind. My down-canyon neighbor Vernon’s politics and mine couldn’t be farther at the ends of any political continuum one might devise. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger and I’m a Berkeley-educated Liberal of mid-1960s vintage. But there’s one thing we agree on: love your country but don’t trust your government—and keep your powder dry. That, and that I make one helluva fine pot of broccoli soup.
Distant Gunfire Broccoli Soup
Slice up a big onion and sauté it in olive oil, until it’s soft and golden. Just before it gets there, throw in as much minced garlic as your family can tolerate. Add a good tablespoon or more of curry powder, a couple of heaping teaspoons of turmeric and basil and some sea salt. Stir to coat the onions and garlic, and let the seasonings cook until their aroma comes up. Add a cut up head of broccoli, with stems peeled and chopped. Add a 32 oz. box of organic vegetable or chicken stock. Put a lid on the pot and let it simmer until the broccoli can be pierced with a fork, about 20-25 minutes. Put the whole mess through a blender or food processor until completely blended and return it to the pot. Add a 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk and heat gently. Never boil the soup! You can top it with a dollop of sour cream, or throw in some grated cheddar cheese, if the mood hits you. I like to serve it with a couple of slices of a good whole wheat country bread, warmed and slathered with butter.
And if you’re a bit dubious about me, after my martial revelations, above, just remember Beethoven’s observation: Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.
Further east, the Sierra crest assures us: some things are calmly eternal.