From Nuts to Soup: Starting preschool is not for the weak

4.21.10: Leo's 23rd Month

Lemony Barley Vegetable Soup article.jpg

“By the time he gets to pre-k,” our pediatrician said recently while confirming a double ear infection, “this kid is going to be strong as an ox.” I have been repeating this to myself every time I’m called home from work to pick Leo up at school, but the phrase is losing its power to cheer me. By the time he gets to pre-k, this kid’s medical chart is going to look like an American Association of Pediatrics textbook. This week, Leo’s school sent him home on Monday with a stomach virus and while he was home he seems to have developed pinkeye. Tomorrow is my last day of full-time work on this current project, and it feels like we’re barely going to make it.

It’s no surprise I guess: everyone says your kid will get sick a lot when they start school. But it turns out that the definition of a lot is non-stop for 5 weeks in a row. A healthy day is the sort of rarity that you don’t dare notice out loud because you know it’s going to be fleeting. And we’ve been on the BRATT diet around here for so long I have stopped shopping for produce. Tonight, after putting Leo to bed, I opened the fridge with a sort of a “did anybody make dinner?” feeling, and I had a moment of reckoning. In the depths of our crisper, vegetables I bought weeks ago were lingering. So I did what I do whenever things seem to have decided to suck: I made soup.

This soup is all I’ve got. It’s made with the only veggies we had, it’s the only cooked food I’ve managed to muster up this week, the only bit of creative energy I can summon. And it’s working already. I love how forgiving soup is to cook, how comforting to eat, and I adore taking down a great big heavy pot and a hefty wooden spoon to make it. Tonight as I diced fennel and summer squash and simmered them with a little barley to make this light, spring-feeling, warming meal, I finally stopped worrying about how my project at work will end up, how Leo will feel when he wakes up, how we’ll make it to pre-k and beyond. Tonight, I feel well-nourished and calm. And if I have to, I’ll make another soup tomorrow night.

making soup

Recipe: Lemony Barley–Vegetable Soup

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.