Love Bites: A Recipe Shared

This month's columnist explores a tomato soup recipe and the loved ones it connects and comforts

Article by Tee Tolmar | 11 Jun 2024
  • Keystone Illustration - Heather Minto

When my boyfriend was hospitalised, I messaged his mother for the recipe to his favourite tomato soup. When we first started dating, he told me it was his comfort food and god knows he needed some comfort then. It was intimidating texting a woman I had never met – especially one I so badly hoped would come to love me – but her reply was littered with hearts and kisses. “Thank you for looking after my boy,” she said, noting that she was a phone call away if I got stuck with the recipe, or needed to talk. We were no longer strangers, but two women caring together.

I followed her recipe with religious zeal. While cooking, I harassed my friends with questions. “Would you describe this as a small onion? Is that a medium or large sundried tomato?” I checked with her to make sure I was dissolving my stock cubes in the right amount of water. I was scared I may have added too much salt. This – making his mother’s tomato soup – was something I could do to make things better, and I wanted it to be perfect.

He cried when I gave it to him. Months later, he remembered it as the first moment he thought he truly loved me, in the undying, this-is-the-woman-I-want-to-marry sense. That stained tupperware, heated up by the nurse I pleaded with, held so much more than just soup. To him, it tasted like his childhood. I savoured it as a piece of the boy’s past with whom I hoped to share a future.

I sent his mother a picture of him eating the soup. I called my own mum when I left the hospital that night, heating up leftover soup for my dinner. She asked me for the recipe, and I thought of her standing over her stove making a meal, now passed through three women.