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  • "That's, um…" he stopped and thought for a second, my client's boss. "That's really purple."

    "I know," I sighed from atop my giant blue ball.

    "Is it supposed to be purple?"

    "It's not not supposed to be purple,'" I offered as we both stared at the bowl.

    "I'm sure it's good," he said with reservation and I laughed.

    It was good, my rustic cabbage soup. It was healthy, filling and delicious. It was also the color of McDonaldland pal Grimace: Deeply, royally purple.

    On some level, I knew that it would be. On most levels, I knew that it would be. I just didn't quite realize how purple the purple could be.

    I cooked a lot. As a vegetarian bordering on vegan and somewhat shy around processed foods, I much preferred to cook for myself. Besides, other than food trucks, there was no place to eat anywhere near my office to pick up food for lunch (and my client tended to schedule meetings at the same time).

    On the weekends, I made soup. I chopped and I diced, sautéed and simmered, and I ladled it all (every last drop) into individual serving-sized glass containers (BPA free!) that I tucked into the freezer, mixed in with the other individual serving-sized containers from weeks and months past so I wouldn't be stuck eating the same soup every day for a week.

    My weeknight meals gravitated toward bowls of cereal or rice cakes topped with hummus. Granola bars. Fruit snacks. I ate so many Star Wars fruit snacks that the grocery store started sending me personalized deals on the family-sized boxes, and I ate even more. At least, my weekday, daytime meals were sound. My weekday, daytime meals saved me: Oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, homemade soup.

    A recent, misguided decision to go with the "local only" box from the green grocer had resulted in a number of unexpected vegetables – black radishes, red cabbage, ridiculous numbers of parsnips and rutabagas – as well as a distinct lack of the items offered – onions, beets, and yams. Leaving town after the weekend, I expected to make soup or stew of the items, I could store the yams and onions and be done with it, but the mess of a mix delivered on Thursday didn't even come close to matching the list from Wednesday night.

    The black radishes… Well, those were a loss. I mean, I ate them (sautéed in butter), but they were not actually a food I would choose to put in my mouth. The parsnips, I curried into a soup with a recipe from Jamie Oliver, a large knob of butter and a healthy spoonful of garam masala I bought in Zanzibar, and the cabbage, I made into a soup. A rustic cabbage soup.

    I knew, even as I chopped, that it was a bad idea. The color bled onto the cutting board and spilled toward the counter beyond. I sautéed the potatoes (fingerlings from the box) and onions (store-bought). I added the stock, the beans and the cabbage and I watched everything melt into a vibrant, royal, live-out-loud purple soup.

    It looked like something created by melting my client's kids' crayons. The color resembled nothing in nature so much as… It actually resembled nothing in nature. Nothing at all. Despite the fact that it was a crazy natural soup with a crazy natural color, it looked positively cartoonish.

    The recipe called for green cabbage. That, potatoes and white beans made for one of blandest (-looking) foods that I ate. The cancer-preventing cruciferous vegetable turned it into something riotous and somewhat embarrassing in the staid government office of frozen dinners and lunch at the desk, but I couldn't quite leave it at home. I liked the riot. I liked being the girl with the purple soup.
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