For me, writing is about pulling the things around you closer, inspecting them, playing with them, reimagining them. Cooking is much the same, especially during quarantine, which requires you to be a little more creative with what you have at hand, for example, this cream of zucchini soup.
In The Before, if I was missing an ingredient, I’d just swing by the store to pick it up and round out the meal. Now, in trying to deeply limit my time in stores, I get more creative. Don’t have leeks? That’s okay! Here’s an onion, or three green onions. Don’t have broccoli to make a cheesy broccoli soup? No problem. This zucchini will do just fine.
What I find in both cooking and writing is that the more you are forced to work with what you have, whatever rules, whatever limitations, the better both the meal and the poem become. I do not write best from limitless bounty, but instead, find the most inspiration in the moments when we must adapt to fit the new world around us.
Cream of Zucchini Soup
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as an appetizer
For the Soup
1 tsp butter or olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, chopped
1/2 tsp paprika
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup cream cheese
2 tbsp half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup corn kernels
1/8 tsp cayenne
green onion tops, chopped
1 tsp good olive oil
Add your oil to a soup pot that’s on medium heat. When warm, add your diced onions. Salt the onions to help them sweat. When translucent, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add zucchini, paprika, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper to taste. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and boil for 15 minutes.
Add cream cheese and break up into the soup. (It doesn’t need to be smooth.) Then either blend with an immersion blender or turn the soup off to cool and then add in batches to a blender or food processor.
Add half and half and check for salt and pepper to taste.
If you want to make it extra fancy, sauté corn in butter with salt and cayenne for 2 minutes. Top soup with corn kernels, green onions, and a drizzle of good olive oil.
Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Managing Editor of Sundress Publications. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, and her work has appeared in Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee