It was hard to get a lot of the health food items i was used to in the hill country. Everything had to be made from scratch, not because i felt like cooking from scratch, but because prepared or instant vegan food was just hard to come by in the country. In a big city there was going to be an abundance of gluten-free, dairy-free cakes and cookies, little chocolate pies and brownies. There would be vegetarian and vegan options at the soup bar. There would even be cheese free cheese-puffs in the chip aisle. In the middle of the hill country the health food stores were mostly investing in dry goods that would keep well for long periods of time on the shelves. If i wanted the solitude and beauty of the country i had to cook and i was okay with that. It was cheaper anyways. The problem arose when the stores stopped carrying rapunzel vegetable bouillon cubes because if not bought and used immediately the oil in them would turn rancid. Without the rapunzel bouillon cubes i wasn’t sure how to make soup. Soup was what i made in the winter months to get me through to days when the light lasted longer and i had more time to do things after work. I would gather all the vegetables available at the local farm market and put them all in a pot with bouillon cubes and water. Then i would simmer it until the vegetables were nice and soft and the herbs had coated each piece. I would pack it for lunch and eat it for dinner for the rest of the week. My mother was a raw-food chef. She had this uncanny ability to taste something and recreate it exactly. She knew what ingredients were used to create the flavors she was tasting in one bite. We had gone to our favorite restaurants and fed her our favorite dishes offered there in the hopes that she’d be able to recreate them for the holidays when we visited even though the restaurant would be closed. Boy did she deliver. If you had closed your eyes, you would have sworn we were sitting at a table in the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that we loved so much. So, when the stores stopped carrying rapunzel bouillon cubes, i asked my mother if she could make a vegan bouillon soup mix to sell on her website for people like me who wanted to make soup but lived too far out to not have to make it from scratch, boiling vegetable scraps and onion skins to try and infuse water with flavor without the salty oily grease of chicken (harder than it sounds). 2 months later she delivered. She put a glass jar of tan-colored powder in my hand on one of my visits and gave me the test batch of her new product, vegetable stock bouillon powder. I tucked the treasure i held in my hand into a nook in the car and drove it home to the tiny house in the hill country. It would be another month before i got away from work long enough to make soup. One day i found the time. I called my mother for the dosage and unscrewed the cap of the stout little jar i’d been keeping in the freezer for freshness. As soon as i put my nose over it the spices hit me. It smelled savory and familiar like herbed bread rising in the oven. I chopped all my local vegetables and threw them in a pot. I filled the pot with water and spooned in the aromatic tan-colored powder speckled with flecks of green. I stirred it together and put it on the stove to bring to a boil and then simmer as i went about the day’s chores. The market had held in their wooden bins; cabbages, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, a few good bell peppers that hadn’t turned to mush that late in the season, and i had thrown in a box of store bought mushrooms just because i loved them. I stirred and checked on the soup in between each of my chores, anxiously awaiting its finale. I was so hungry and it had been so long since i’d had vegetable soup. The little tiny house was filling with the aroma of herbs. My mouth was watering and my belly was hungry. Finally, i lifted the lid to see the carrots soft and rounded by the bouillon bath and the bits of skin falling away from the soft chunks of potato. The onions had cooked down and were now soft and see-through, just the way i liked them. I went to the shed and got my soup ladle. I washed it and spooned out a helping of soup in one of the stonewear bowls my parents had owned when we were growing up. I could barely wait to take a bite. I stood at the counter blowing on my spoonful of veggie soup. When i finally tucked into that bowl of soup it was the best thing my tastebuds had savored in a long while. I called my mother to tell her she had better start making more and come up with a label and a price for the jar. It was perfect. I would use her soup mix many more times throughout the winter months, until the local market closed up for the year, not to open again until mid may. There was no need for the discontinued rapunzel bouillon cubes in the country anymore.
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