WordBowl: jussulent, a delicious term meaning “full of soup or broth”, common vernacular in the early 1600s, falling out of favor around 1658. Our first “dead word” suggested with fervor by 11-year-old Noah, submitted via his Auntie Jasmine.
Noah, son of S&S, inveterate explorer, WordBowl conquistador.
A burbling, jubilant gumbo is a joy to behold, a wonderland of endless combinations of crawfish, chicken, shrimp, smoked ham, andouille, a tilt-a-whirl of spices, Old Bay and some secret blend passed from Great-Great Aunt to grandmother to daughter, or in more contemporary eras, packaged powders bearing the images of Paul Prudhomme, Emeril. Spices subtle or BAM! eye-watering heat to sear the senses, with an undercurrent of smokiness, redolent of Bayou waters, crawfish boils, deer stands and campfires. A bewitching concoction of mystical power, capable of calming the most savage of hangover beasts, awakening the senses to appreciate the culinary delights of courses to come, comforting a heartache residing in the gut and soul, too recent to articulate.
Gumbo has been known to unite family amidst varying degrees of feuds in one fell swoop of a spoon.
Mexico has pozole, their sacred soup. Japan, miso. Italy their legendary minestrone, and a fishy analogy to bouillabaisse, the composition of which is a more reliable regional designation than any lines on a map. France, the home of bouillabaisse, the grand-pere of soups. Vietnam, pho. Manhattan and Maine, their warring chowders.
In Mississippi we had no slow-simmering stovetop cauldron, other than a Crock-Pot of white bean soup to accompany the Coca-Cola glazed, pineapple-festooned ham on Easter, we were strictly a Campbell’s family.
Which made the soup tureen puzzling, an inheritance from Great Aunt Myrtle, who I cannot ever recall serving soup in her pristine dining room with cream velvet drapes and delicate lace table runners. Part of the posthumous largess I hauled from the South to my newly adult home of San Francisco in a less-spoken-of-the-better road trip, the ornate serving tureen stood stoic, displayed in an inherited china cabinet in a succession of apartments as I tried on successive lives. Tureen unloved, as I had yet to find the persona to embrace its vintage value.
Incidentally, there is no indigenous soup of Northern California.
The tureen and accompanying china service for twelve — eight, if doing full place settings, as salad plates and soup bowls shattered throughout the years —along with all the other items inherited too young to fully appreciate, boxed up for the Great Donation Drop-Off in preparation for my cross-country move to Manhattan where I would lack the appropriate square footage to entertain in grand style.
New York City, where I discovered the glories of delivery Chinese and their cornucopia of soups: Hot and Sour, Egg Drop, Wonton. Celebratory Shark Fin, supped in Chinatown, of questionable price and authenticity. In one of the once-grand-gone-to-tourist temples of Dim Sum, I was introduced to the penultimate jewel in the Chinese soup constellation: Soup Dumpling Soup.
Often served o in bamboo steamers, tang bao — diaphanous soup-filled dumplings — on special occasions can be found bobbing, suspended, in an aromatic savory broth. A grand soup, worthy of Great Aunt Myrtle’s serving tureen.
If only knowledge of an ideal soup and possession of an ideal vessel occurred in a convergent moment in time.
The crafting of “jussulent” required a bit of simmering, first handwritten in the waning Happy Hour sunlight at Maialino (grammercy), revised over a bouillabaisse-friendly Bordeaux at Vin Sur Vingt (west village), edited with a restorative almond milk latte at Nourish (west village).
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