Food & Culture
No Soup for the Nihilist Soul
by Dayna Mari
It’s best to imagine this story in the voice of Marlon Brando: an auditory crouton.
Cream of Chicken, Corn Chowder, Vichyssoise.
So they vary the temperature but not the key
ingredient. What’s even a lactose-tolerant soul to do when in need of something as basic as consommé? Try next door.
Seafood Bisque, New England Clam Chowder. Damn these limeys, old and new! Think their cooler weather justifies the additional calories.
Takes Mediterranean courage and warmth to abandon the moo juice. Yet nothing Manhattan-style in its eponymic city, for the imperialist new
limeys have bought their way into the kitchen as easily as their predecessor, though with more than twenty-four bucks and baubles.
I’d hit the Vietnamese kiosks around the corner if their Pho’ wasn’t so heavy on the noodles, stingy with the broth. Liquid gold
is dispensed sparingly, if at all.
Doesn’t anyone know what soup is supposed to be? If the human body is about 95% water, soup should be at least that.
But propaganda dictates that soup be a meal, forgetting it is but a single course. It must be hearty and fulfilling. Comfort food.
As if salvation could be found in a bowl. Or Styrofoam container.
Split pea. Thicker than wallpaper paste. Yet people order it, their faith in the label, the magic word which transcends texture.
Soup. Fools believe blindly. Their reward: dehydration and inert bowels.
“Go with gazpacho, then,” people suggest. “Succulent tomatoes, puré-ed — doubly liquid, requiring a pitcher.”
But what of the remaining content? If I had really wanted a vegetable beverage on hard bread, I would’ve had a V-8 and a German roll.
I ask for the simplest, most fundamental of concepts, only to find it buried by the accumulation of society’s fashionable frills.
Perverted beyond recognition, hence obliterated. We must destroy the destroyers, eradicate even the apparently benevolent presence
of salt and pepper. Rendered slaves by our own instinctive acceptance of condiments, we allow our burden to multiply as we acquiesce
without question to further additions. The elaborate recipe results in an overdone Mulligan Stew. (And not in its own juices, long
evaporated!) There is no longer any order — higher or side — just the chaos one tries to disguise with codified categorization dubbed menus.
People mistakenly believe they can save themselves from the void with man-made hierarchies. Yet, as nothing can stave off the
freshness expiration date, they are merely deceiving themselves.
Maîtres d’hôtel fear me; hostesses strike me from the guest list. My reputation precedes me.
They know no specialité du jour or even de l’absolu will satisfy me — in any language. And — sin of all sins —
I will request certain modifications, indulgences purchased with greenbacks and a handshake or exotic flowers and a kiss.
(I have often switched the aforementioned combinations in the past. And expect to do so in the future.) As I wreak havoc on their perfectly
compartmentalized repasts, their worlds go belly up, stripped of reason, leaving them more naked than an undressed salad. Orphaned,
soggy croutons facing the emptiness of an infinity born of their own imagination and desires. Let them snub me, for I have no need of
invitations from those living a deluded certitude. And no, the thought counts not in the least.
Life is cold. It allows a vegetarian to starve on a street of butcher shops. And a soup-seeker to wander in vain.
This meandering existence I defy, ignoring pedestrian crossings and traffic signals, which have no meaning in themselves.
I, then, am a cosmically culinary jaywalker. Even as I chide cooks and wait-help, I wonder if there is a point.
“We must start from scratch,” I declare as their eyes glaze over (too much butter, perhaps?); I suspect they’ve resorted to tins.
But my vision and taste persist, razing (and razzing) newly-established conventions which, compounded, transform genuine soup into mush.
Some women, out of pity, try to offer me redemption by recommending me as a food critic for the local beat. But I rebuff their efforts.
They’ve read far too much bleeding Dostoyevsky. And I hate borsch.
Fruit soup — the latest fad. Switching gurus, trading one god for another — all fallible. Yet another miserable attempt
to impose an unnatural logic on the world. “No, I am not a clumsy oaf; I did not smash the berries. They’re supposed to be like this;
it’s ... soup.” Dessert — the reward for man’s table tribulations, bestowing meaning on a senseless meal and an even more dubious
recipe intent on saving what should not be.
Such diners would take antacids before eating, pray before sinning, unaware that, in reality, they neither eat nor sin.
That they are no more than a compendium of constructs, form upon form masquerading as substance. Like these so-called soups.
In name only, names themselves mere constructs camouflaging the void.
I can bear no more. I quicken my step until I practically fly up the stairs to my flat. I set the stained kettle
on the blue gas flames and open the one cupboard that has not been emptied by the irrepressible need to do away with the superfluous, the unreal.
Bouillon cube. Unadulterated broth. The original, the primordial, the ... Monosodium glutimate? Disodium inosinate? Disodium guanylate?
So, even this.
Art Times, eye-rhyme, Licking River Review,
The Silver Web, Fireweed, South Carolina Review, Kit-Cat Review,
The Journal of Irreproducible Results, Horizon (Belgium), anthologies, as well as in The Raven Chronicles.
teaches Romance languages and literatures in Honolulu.
She is also a translator. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in