Chicken Soup: delicious healer, wise teacher

My daughter is not generally a fussy eater. In order to maintain this, when I notice her turning her nose up at certain foods, I try to mix things up a little and get her involved in the whole food provision process. Last time this happened was early in the year when we were both on holidays. I noticed some resistance to my usual no-fuss dinners, and thought I’d take the break as an opportunity to try something different. A week or so beforehand I had been unwell, and a lovely human had brought me chicken soup to make me feel better. I asked my dear progeny if she would like to help make chicken soup, and – being a fan of both chicken and soup – she eagerly agreed. We spent some time looking at recipes online, chose a a good one and worked out what ingredients we would need. We trundled down to the shops, and daughter took great delight in going off on her own to find ingredients in the supermarket (she is a big girl, after all). When we got home, my helper washed veggies and lugged the big pot out of the cupboard, then went off to play while I did the dangerous sharp and hot bits. She would reappear occasionally to steal some bits of carrot and dry noodles and to have a stir, and we would tell each other how good it all smelled. At last, it was ready. There was heaps. I filled old takeaway containers and tupperware and lined them up on the bench to cool – and there was still enough in the pot for dinner and lunch the next day. It was a balmy evening and we sat outside on the back step to eat. The soup was delicious and all was idyllic… until, after a few mouthfuls, daughter spoke.

“I don’t really like this.”

Needless to say, I was a bit sad. All that effort! All that excitement! All that soup!!

She had a good try and managed to get through half a bowl (mainly by eating the noodles), but I’m not a fan of forcing the poor thing to eat stuff she genuinely doesn’t like, so I eventually relented and made her a vegemite sandwich.

The lesson I took away from this little episode was about expectation. We form expectations about all kinds of things, big and small. But life so rarely delivers on them – and it’s easy to be left feeling deflated, disappointed and/or pissed off. I know some people who try to avoid all expectation as a way of practising detachment, but that doesn’t work for me. I end up expecting myself to not have expectations (oh, the irony!), and getting frustrated when I inevitably fail. Instead, I try to acknowledge and manage my expectations. They aren’t always realistic, and if (when!) something falls short, I am able to see that maybe the problem was with my expectation, rather than an error or shortcoming of the person/event/food involved. This isn’t a mechanism to enable self-blame. Instead, it’s a way of keeping things in perspective, and of taking ownership of what’s going on in my head rather than externalising responsibility.

This is one of those life lessons I have learned repeatedly, and will continue to forget and learn again and again. Like my chicken soups, the lesson is slightly different each time. And, if I’m lucky, the end products of both will be increasingly delicious.

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