“What’s for dinner?” my son Andrew asks me every morning.
What’s for dinner? I haven’t figured out how I’ll get out of bed. Barely conscious, I stumble from bed to shower, tugging at the faucet while waiting for the water to run warm.
“I like it when the house smells good,” he adds, lingering in the doorway. He exits the room, stealth-like, and leaves me to my shower—a coconut and jasmine waterfall—a sweet smelling body wash that allows me to pretend I’m on a tropical island and not in the middle of a grey Seattle day.
I consider Andrew’s request, knowing he craves the smell of something delicious simmering on the stove. There’s no doubt that our sense of smell is powerful. It can trigger physical responses in our bodies that impact our mood and affect our behavior. Smells can evoke long-forgotten memories and can even sharpen our other senses. To me, the earthy scent of a vine-ripened tomato smells like sunshine, reminding me of the vegetable garden next to my family’s country home. I was only four-years-old, but I vividly remember my grandfather in a pair of blue coveralls, picking soft red tomatoes, summer squash, carrots, and delicate basil and placing them into an old cardboard box for the soup my grandmother would make.
After my shower, I follow the aroma of coffee downstairs. My husband is scrambling a skillet of eggs on the gas stove, my daughter is scraping jam onto a piece of toast and a bowl of wedged oranges sits on the kitchen counter—the taste and smell of home. In the corner, Andrew sits surrounded by a pile of cookbooks, scanning each page in search of what he would like to eat for dinner.
“This is it! Mommy Minestrone,” he exclaims, pointing to a crinkled page in a notebook of favorite recipes I’ve collected for nearly twenty years.
“Mmmm. Yes,” his sister says between bites of toast. “It tastes like home.”
“It smells like yum,” Andrew adds.
Minestrone soup. A slam-dunk family favorite since my kids were old enough to eat with a spoon. Even though they are young adults now, they still ask for it by their made-up name. So, if you would like a divine taste of sunshine on a chilly autumn day, I have the perfect yum for you:
5 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
2 (14oz) cans diced tomatoes (or fresh if you have them!)
1 (14oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
3/4 cup pasta such as farfalle or penne
Red pepper flakes, add to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Into a heavy pot, add bacon and sauté until crisp. Add the next 5 ingredients and cook until vegetables soften, about 5 min. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on low for 25 minutes. Add pasta, simmer 7-10 minutes more. Breathe deeply, enjoy a glass of wine and smell the sunshine. Yum!