Rain darkens this march morning, here in the hills of southern Indiana. Despite the gloom, I rejoice at the prospect of making lentil soup today with my wife and our granddaughter, Elizabeth. I am washing dishes, glancing out the window at our soggy garden, wondering if it will ever be dry enough to plant, when Elizabeth bursts into the kitchen. At just over three feet tall and just under four years old, she arrives like a tiny whirlwind, flinging off her slicker, dragging her stepstool to the counter and clambering up, chattering about Grammy’s soup.
Grammy is Ruth, my favorite cook now through 40 years of marriage. She and Elizabeth gather carrots, potatoes and onions, mostly from last summer’s garden, as well as dried oregano, basil and thyme, also grown in our tiny backyard. The lentils are already soaking. With sleeves pushed up, Elizabeth plunges her arms into the bowl of water halfway to her elbows and gleefully swishes the lentils around, feeling for any stones that might have sunk to the bottom.
Surveying the ingredients, Ruth says, “Oh, Lizzie, we’ve forgotten something. What do we put in to make everything else taste good?”
Elizabeth withdraws her arms from the water, dries them, and ponders for a moment. Then she brightens. “Garlic!”
“That’s it,” Ruth says, and sends her to retrieve a few cloves. Ever since Elizabeth learned to go up and down stairs safely by herself, one of her jobs at home has been to fetch garlic from the basement and then to help squeeze the pungent cloves in a press.
Now she demonstrates to Ruth and me that she is strong enough to squeeze the press all by herself, and the kitchen fills with an earthy aroma, like the fragrance of thawing soil.