This is a writing piece I turned in to my food narratives class. The assignment was to write about a time I could not get enough of a certain food. I decided to write about my oh so deep and personal relationship with tomato basil soup but ended up realizing by the end of the writing exercise that maybe I do not just like the soup for how it tastes but for how it makes me feel….
BY THE WAY- For anyone who doesn’t know, Proust was a writer who wrote a long novel about his life. The novel begins with a scene where he remembered specific memories in his life all from the simple act of eating a cookie. Proust hadn’t eaten that cookie since his childhood. Have you ever eaten something and it reminded you of a memory that immediately brought you back to a specific time in your life? That is what happened to Proust and thus the term “proustian memory” was born. Here is my piece.
I could never forget the first time I tried the famous tomato basil soup from Turtle bread bakery and restaurant. The building was situated in the middle of Lindin Hills, an active family friendly neighborhood on the outer edges of urban Minneapolis. It was October, which meant that Minnesota was reaching the peak of its beauty before a brutal winter. The trees were covered in a spectrum of brightly colored leaves that would eventually detach and drift towards the ground through the breeze. The air itself was crisp and cool on the skin as one walked outside, but the sun was still bright enough to bestow warmth and light upon its subjects. I have always loved autumn because the season brings so much excitement and comfort.
The day I first tried the soup was a particularly exciting day. On that day I was allowed to leave school with a few friends in order to attend a college fair. I was overjoyed at any excuse to play hooky for a few hours and thus jumped at the chance to go downtown. Eating out was not even a plan at the time, but we somehow all ended up stopping at Turtle Bread for a warm bite to eat. Thinking back to my first impression of the place brings back almost as much happiness as eating the soup. The restaurant had tall ceilings with innumerable wicker baskets hanging below. The store was filled with all sorts of decadent indulgences. Cakes, cookies, pies and pastries were all displayed next to piles of artisanal breads and counters of jams and cheeses. The Restaurant smelled of coffee and hummed with the liveliness of a tight-knit community. I was an outsider to the people and pleasures of Turtle Bread but that would all soon change. My friend walked right up to the counter and promptly ordered a bowl of the tomato basil soup with extra bread. He swore by this meal as the signature Turtle Bread dish that was unparalleled by all other tomato basil impersonators. Convinced, I ordered the same and followed instructions on “the best way to eat it” by dunking hunks of buttered bread into the piping hot bowl. The range of flavors exploded as soon as I put the steaming, soup-soaked bread into my mouth. The chunky soup tasted fresh and tart from the tomatoes with an added depth from the basil leaves. The soup saturated the doughy ciabbatta bread and all of the flavors came together from the rich butter, which had begun to melt. I was instantly addicted. As far as I was concerned, this was the perfect meal. On cold gloomy days, this soup instantly made me feel cozy and comforted as I gazed out of the floor to ceiling windows. When I was in a good mood the soup made me even happier. When I was sad, the thick, creamy meal would instantly warm my body and mind. I ended up frequenting the restaurant so many times in the following months that I was offered a job there. I worked at Turtle Bread for the duration of high school and never fully realized until now how much the experience shaped me into who I am today. I came away with many new friends, an understanding for family businesses, an appreciation for community, and a love for soup. I ate my worth in soup during my time at Turtle Bread and I adore every type, though nothing comes close to the signature Tomato Basil.
I think the reason I cook so many soups now is because deep down I am longing for the taste of Turtle Bread soup but I have moved too far away to have it. So instead, I constantly try to recreate the exact blend of heavenly flavors each time I sample spoonfuls from a pot bubbling away on my tiny college stove. In this land of Hale and Hearty soups nothing can compare to what I know from Minneapolis and my high school years. When it comes down to it, I have a sort of proustian remembrance of the food. Each time I land at the Minneapolis airport I rush straight to turtle bread and am always surprised to find the same employees and customers that I was used to working and laughing with every day. I sit down by the window and gorge myself on a bowl of soup, a pound of butter and more pieces of bread than anyone needs. As I bite into the soft bread with oozing butter I am flooded with old memories and emotions of familiarity, happiness and comfort. Spurred by the intricate flavors of the signature tomato basil soup I am reminded where I am from, and I instantly know that I am home.