Extra flavour

The scent of it is such a rare thing in this struggling, forsaken neighbourhood. “But of course it smells delectable,” I tell those who ask. “That’s real meat.” It not only smells good, it tastes good too. Tomato soup with roast red peppers and meatballs. Beef and vegetable soup: fresh carrots, fried potatoes, leeks, cauliflower, and — of course — beef-on-the-bone. Beautiful.

But, even though I sell meals full of the goodness of fresh meat, they always complain. “It’s a bit gamy,” they say.

I say, “That’s only extra flavour. And the toughness cooks out.” They never notice the toughness; don’t know why I bring it up.

“Stop complaining,” I tell them. “If you don’t like it, get it somewhere else.” And there’s a joke in that: I’m the only game in town for those who don’t want their meat from a can.

My neighbours blame the missing animals on me. “Where the hell’s your beef from?” they shout.

“Are you dim enough you can’t tell the difference between cat and beef?” I yell back. Still, I sell them soup at a discount, to appease them. Apparently it’s good soup, whether Fluffy’s the secret ingredient or not.

Ah, meat. They’ll do anything for it. And I’m glad of that. I’m an old lady now and there’s no one to look after me but me myself. And the bit of cash a good bowl of soup brings in does me good.

Oh yes.

Ella’s Soup

James and Ella shared a passion for food that lasted their entire life together. Therefore, when Ella died it seemed fitting that he cook for her and their friends one last time.

When all the arrangements had been made and the bureaucracy dealt with, he closed himself away in their kitchen and made soup. It was a good soup; warm, rich and satisfying. Ella would have approved. Afterwards, when friends talked or thought about Ella, her life and their loss, they would remember the soup.

It was not something that would easily be created again. James could not remember most of what had gone into it. When questioned, he could only remember four ingredients, although he was sure there were many more. He would have based the soup on a hearty stock, probably chicken. He and Ella had always enjoyed how food could be connected in this way, with the core flavours of one meal condensed into a rich, tasty base for another.

Then there were tomatoes; plump, deep red and sun-warmed. Ella had presented him with a perfect tomato every Valentine’s Day. “It’s a love apple,” she would say. “It symbolises the rosy, sweet core of our love.” She never missed a year.

He also knew that he had added garlic for piquancy, and smoked paprika for spiciness. Almost everything they cooked together contained these two ingredients.

Eventually when people asked, he would just say that the soup had been made of memories of Ella.

The Presidential Soup

I know I won’t enjoy the soup no matter the outcome; I never liked lobster bisque. It was Helen Xaing, the eighth president, who started the tradition of bisque. In a famous post-soup speech she called for the plain grey broth, directly from the soup stations, to be “richly flavoured to reflect the prosperity the new soup democracy has brought for us all.”

I sit down before the bowl and see, for the first time, the rich orange liquid. I try to forget about the constant strobe of the photographers’ flashes. Instead I concentrate on the symbolic aspects of the soup. This bisque was made by a million hands; a gift of sorts from each one of the citizens I had led these past two years. This week each of them had gone to a station and selected an ingredient for this soup; now, on live television, they will see the outcome.

I was twenty four when I first chose the Black ingredient. It felt no different to selecting the white flour, the symbol for trust and support, despite its mortal consequence.  I remember walking up to the soup station and showing the official my identity card, walking into the booth and carefully selecting a pinch of the Black powder and throwing it into the thin grey broth.

I wasn’t alone in thinking our leader dishonest; President Grate died 14 minutes after drinking that soup. When I heard I was shocked; unwilling to express my emotions; unable to explain my new understanding. An hour later I decided to enter politics.

I give the cameras a genuine smile and tuck into the soup with reckless gusto. Lobster bisque always makes me queasy.

Soop

I must have been standing here for a good five minutes, staring across the road at it. The place looks ghastly. I’m not sure one could even call it a greasy spoon cafe. I think it would offend the grease. Nevertheless, I have been charged with reviewing this so-called restaurant and that is what I shall do. I give my monocle another quick polish on my monogrammed handkerchief and cross the road.
I manage to avoid touching the door handle by using my elbow pad to open the door; that’ll need a jolly good scrubbing tonight. I keep my eyes to the floor and scuttle across to a table. As I’m trying to locate a safe spot to put my hands on the plastic tablecloth, the waitress arrives.
“Whayerwan?”
Ah, yes, a South Londoner. I’ve read about them.
“Cuppor Tee, Luff. And…” I peer over my spectacles at the menu in its perspex holder. “Soop.”
“Twominnitsyeh?”
She skips off to kitchen. A shell suit, honestly? I don’t suppose they even have a company dress code.
Now she’s talking to the chef. Oh, goodness, he’s looking over at me! My hand shoots up to cover my face. A shadow falls over my table – he’s standing right next to me. Various sauce stains decorate his apron. I think I spot a piece of broccolli.
“Hi,” he says. I lower my hand slowly and look up at this giant looming over me. “How’ve you been, Dad?”

Renegade romance

“Thirteen continental converters, three million tons of pre-soil mass and all the biological starting kits a growing planet needs. You’ll have forests in no time. Just sign here.”

“Thank you. Um. Would you like a tour?”

“Why not? I like the feel of the place.”

–          I knew from the beginning, you see.

“That’s the station, and the labs; over there, we called them the Mountains of Madness  – ha! – and down here – “

“The ocean. Beautiful.”

“Oh, no. That’s the Soup. Our little joke.”

“It’s… amazing. The way it moves.”

“Methane eruptions, microbial activity. Smells like old cabbage. Hence the name.”

“Can I have a closer look?”

–          It was love at first sight.

–          Well, I thought you were just another malformed two-legged amoeba, honestly.

“Terracorp is on the line again – “

“I’m… busy. Tell them to call back.”

“I don’t think you should be – will you just get out of the Soup? We don’t even know what that does! Please?”

–          Crazy days!

–          Good times.

“Please, sir. No. No! Your people are on the way! Terracorp is coming! Don’t do anything stupid!”

“I no longer work for Terracorp.”

“Please, just be – what the hell is that? What the hell is THAT?”

–          It’s wrong, by your laws. What we did.

–          I don’t  think of it that way. I was saving your life. That’s got to count for something.

“— Hailing all channels. Ten million credit reward for information on Terra87, mass delivery ship, property of TerraCorp, stolen by pilot in league with giant unknown creature known only as “Soup”. Considered dangerous. Hailing all channels. —”

Warm Soup

Falcon sat still in the warm afternoon sunlight, the warmth eased his aches. The air was still and the churned ground empty after the fury that had spread across it some hours ago. The wounded were resting, the weary were watching and the dead were at peace.

The battle had been long. Neither side gaining but both loosing. All were tired – tired of fighting, tired of living on the edge. Those that did not walk the green field of Elysium wished for home. But home was far away behind them and there were battles before them. And until the path was clear there would be no returning home.

Fires had been lit and food was being prepared. The smell of cooking barely masked the smell of earth, sweat, blood and death. But after so long on the battlefield Falcon only smelt the food. His stomach growled with hunger. He knew it would be soup again. He had no desire for soup. For days they had been eating soup. No wheat meant no bread so the cooks made do with what could be found on the trampled earth. Twigs and roots throw in a pot. Boil it long enough and it became soup. But with so many men to feed options were limited so soup it was – day in day out.

Falcon gazed across the front line bathed in setting light. All that meat on the battlefield… It would be a shame to waste.

Soup

There are elves in my soup. This is pissing me off: I chose the ingredients very carefully, and small green twittering things simply aren’t appropriate. Besides, one of them bit me when I grabbed them and tried to stuff them into the waste disposal – I should have worn gloves. Without them at least the soup’s gone back to its proper colour: dark, noir even, with the correct dirty glints from streetlights in the rain. The smell is a bit unwashed, smoky rooms with a hint of gunpowder and French perfume, but I think that’s within spec.

There are still problems: every now and then something bubbles to the surface and I have to be quick with the strainer. The spaceships are easy, they’re large and obvious enough to grab and the lasers are a bit fucked from all the garlic so they don’t really fight back. The garlic, of course, explains why I keep on finding the bloody vampire teeth, which are slippery, and tend to vanish back into the depths with a slight sucking sound when I grope for them. Annoying. Hopefully they’ll disintegrate.

Stir, stir, stir. The danger is if you turn up the heat too high and it bubbles over. I don’t want a damned apocalypse, it’s not appetising, what with the burned smell and the clouds of smoke. I’ve tried very hard to balance the flavours here; it’s not as if I’m working from a recipe, but there are traditions, after all.

Soup for you? I made it myself.