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Cold season, for those of you who need to be informed, is upon us. Tissues! Motrin! Humidifiers! I hung fresh eucalyptus leaves from the shower head in an attempt to turn our tiny bathroom into a health-giving steam room. I gave Leo two lollipops when we went to the doctor for his pinkeye/croup the other day just to keep him from touching anything in the doctor’s office. I was pretty sure he’d infect every other kid who went that day and also manage to bring home some more fancy germs while he was at it.
When I’m sick, or even just run-down from taking care of Leo all night and day, I start craving takeout. Or more precisely: instant food. As in, Cup O’ Noodles instant “food.” I’ve analyzed this urge, and realized that what I’m craving is the feeling of being warmed and nourished by someone else. Anyone else. Even some corporate conglomerate that sells MSG-dusted noodles in Styrofoam cups! I want to feel like someone is taking care of me. It’s one of those times in adulthood where you realize that you’re the mommy now, whether you lie on the floor helplessly whimpering or pick yourself up and make dinner. No one else is going to put you back together, so you needn’t sit around waiting.
Eventually, I come around to accepting this state of affairs, and remind myself that I can take comfort in giving comfort. And then I make soup. Soup is what I do when all else fails. Someone’s sick? Everyone’s sick? We have no ingredients? We need a hot, home-cooked meal and we’re all wondering who is going to show up to be a warm, nurturing, bustling presence in the kitchen and put together a meal to make us all feel taken care of. Claude the cat, maybe? A fairy godmother in an apron? Me? Maybe.
Pasta and Bean Soup is made entirely of stuff we always have on hand: parmesan rind, tomato paste, can of beans, garlic, fresh rosemary from the plant on the window (dried is fine too), pasta, olive oil and water. It’s a fifteen-minute project, and comes together so easily I can almost convince myself someone else made it for me. And the rosemary and garlic—imbued steam is way more health-giving than my leafy shower. I bought some cans of imported Roman beans for more authenticity, although truthfully Leo seems to prefer pinto beans, and I used tri-color flower-shaped noodles for fun, though again, Leo seems to like whole wheat elbows better, but really, this soup was for me.
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.