Sunday, August 14, 2011
Soup for a sick friend
There isn't much I can do to help friends, but being ill myself I know absolutely what a powerful and tricky thing help can be!
The main thing I have learned is that helping someone is a process. There is the thought, the gift, the feedback, the learning... all leading around (hopefully) to the next gift. All against a background of politeness and appreciation that just might inhibit that process.
Let me explain!
I know that having easy, delicious food on hand can be a real help when you are sick, so I offer to make soup for my friend. She assures me that her husband and daughters have been wonderful at helping to cook while she has been ill.
But I think
a) she is being polite so that I don't feel obliged to cook for her
b) the whole family is likely to feel the strain and would appreciate some help
c) my food is a good token of my care even if it isn't needed
d) and it is good opportunity to learn how I can be an even better friend another time
I plan a soup that can be put in the freezer, or will sit happily in the fridge for a few days, so it will have the best chance of being useful.
Because my friend struggles with IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) I check up information to work out the best soup to make. The information is so contradictory, I ring my friend to check what things she needs to avoid.
I decide on my Pumpkin soup, see recipe here, with less red pepper than usual. Because of the state of my pantry I used no garlic, and channa dal (small chickpeas) instead of the split lentils. Here are the lovely ingredients!
It is a very easy recipe to make in the pressure cooker. I strained out the sweet red pepper skins because I had an idea that they are hard on the digestive system (not sure about that though). I blended it smooth and then put a container for my friend in the fridge. I had a bowlful for myself ~ to taste test ofcourse! wink! But also because I didn't want to give her too much, so she wouldn't feel so bad if she disliked it and had to chuck it out.
It tasted delicious to me, so I took the gift to my friend.
Here is the tricky bit. I know my friend appreciates my gift, and will want to let me know that. Isn't that lovely!
But for my gift to be most useful, I need to know the bad with the good. I need to know if it wasn't to her taste. If it was too salty. If it gave her stomach pains. Even if she accidentally spilt the lot and so didn't taste it at all.
I have regretted missing this part of the conversation when people have given things to me. Often the first time of trying something doesn't work: the outing is too long, the food too much, the massage too cold. You aren't ungrateful, but you need to find the trusting, respecting place to be able to have that conversation. If that space isn't there, all you can give is gracious thanks.
But I would love the gift that goes on, that grows with understanding, and becomes the most useful gift, the most practical, easy and comforting gift, and that grows a friendship alongside.
I shan't demand a truthful report on my soup! But I will have my eyes and ears open to see if my gift might be a little bit stronger, a little bit longer, than a container of soup.