Back at the beginning of my master’s degree, I met Dr. Barb. It was in the same Queer Theory class where I met Mr. Husband, in fact, further proving that innumerable good things came from that course. She was one of my central mentors in the department, and is still lo these many years later a mentor and good friend. When I have to make a serious career decision she’s one of the people I always call, since she’s one of the most humane and generous academics I know. Her advice is holistic, and helps me figure out what kind of person as well as what kind of academic I want to be, and how those two things might fit together.
Today turned out to be a Barb convergence day, even though she’s not here and has no idea I’m writing this. I pulled my copy of Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process off the shelves this morning for bathtub reading, and saw that she and Lisa Mastrangelo had written the final chapter. So of course I began there, and was struck by their tale of learning to do archival work. I was able to shortcut through some of that process this summer thanks to their Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition. They saved me the pain of, say, showing up with no letters of introduction, or not checking finding aids, or bringing my customary blue pens. And they made me feel that it is okay — no, necessary — to wander a bit in the archives, the same way that Barb has always made me feel that it’s okay to wander and wonder while reading theoretical texts.
So she was on my mind as I surveyed the pile of ripening tomatoes that were starting to gang up on me. When I reached for my copy of Barbara Kafka’s Soup: A Way of Life, I remembered finding this copy in a long-defunct bookshop on Snelling in St. Paul on an October day very much like today, when Barb was in town for a guest lecture. She and the then-Mr. Boyfriend and I were wandering around town and stopped by this store’s going out of business sale, and I got this lovely large hardback on soup for a song. And when I flipped to the recipe for tomato soup, I remembered talking with her late one night after she had finished teaching and was wandering the stores of a grocery store with her cell phone, looking for tomato soup and the things you need for a grilled cheese sandwich. I am not so generous with my time yet that I talk with my grad students while grocery shopping, but by that point in our friendship it wasn’t even that kind of call anymore, but her telling me what was up with her and me asking about whatever thing I had to figure out at the time. We don’t talk as much these days since we’re both busy with one thing or the other, but she’s still one of the people who almost always makes my life feel lucky.
I made this soup for lunch today, and it was good. Barb, if you were here, I’d have given you a bowlful and a grilled cheese sandwich.
Tomato Soup (from whole tomatoes, with cream), adapted from Barbara Kafka
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, sliced
3 pounds tomatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream, or to taste
White pepper, to taste
Melt the butter over medium heat in your favorite moderately-sized soup pot. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent.
Skin and de-seed the tomatoes, then cut them into chunks. Stir them into the onions. Pour all the juice and seeds into a strainer and strain the juice into the soup pot. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Whir with an immersion blender until it’s the consistency you want. (You may also wish to pass it through a strainer or food mill, but I could not be bothered.)
Heat through, season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream. Serve.