Lenten Penance

On Ash Wednesday, I was talking to my dear friend and she mentioned that she was making broccoli cheese soup for dinner. I was thrilled, because I had planned on making soup for dinner in observance of the day, but hadn’t yet managed to pull out a cookbook to look for a recipe. Because broccoli cheese soup is one of my favorites, or maybe because anything edible sounded good at this point in the afternoon, I said: “I’ll make that too!” She quickly told me the ingredients I’d need, and with a lovely insouciance added, “I just kind of wing the measurements.” I loved it. LOVED IT! I, too, would wing the measurements. I also needed to run to the store and buy the ingredients, because I had to leave to pick up the girls in 20 minutes. Yes, I waited that long before deciding on a recipe and going to the store. In my defense, I’m doing better, because I went to the store moments BEFORE pick up instead of after, and to be fair this wasn’t really a recipe.

After I got home with the girls, I looked at the vegetable broth and the cream and the BAGS of shredded cheese I’d bought and realized: “WHO AM I FREAKING KIDDING?! I have no IDEA how much of any of this to use.” I pulled up the interwebs and looked through a few recipes before finding one that had at least most of my ingredients. Right there at the top of the chosen reference recipe: “One stick of butter.” This is ALREADY my kind of recipe. I noticed that the first line in the instructions said to start cooking the broccoli and then sautéed the onion and garlic in butter. So I poured some frozen broccoli into a glass bowl and added the amount of water suggested by the bag, and then tossed the whole stick of butter into a pot while I chopped onions. I am VERY proud to say that I chopped the heck out of those onions and I didn’t lose any nails or finger tips. Witness my ability to adapt and improve.

There is no better way to start dinner than with butter, onion, and garlic. Even I know this. The smell was intoxicating. However, I was concerned because it already looked… well… soupy. There was just a LOT of melted butter happening. As I was pondering this, I started to smell something burning. I stirred the onions faster. They didn’t look burnt. The smell got stronger. I moved the pot over to see if something had spilled onto the burner of the stove. Nope. Suddenly a flicker from the microwave caught my eye. I yanked open the door, and there was the broccoli… ON FIRE. I pulled it out and set it on the stove top. Tips of tiny, blackened broccoli buds smoldered. Deciding this was probably precisely why kitchen shears were invented, I just snipped off the charred edges and turned my attention back to the “soup.”


Still puzzled, I checked the recipe on my phone. Hmmm, the next step appears to be “use the remainder of the butter” to make a rue. Well… that explains things. I started making the roux. Which sounded VERY French, so I just relied on genetics to carry me through, and to be honest with y’all, my roux was exceptional and smooth and creamy. Bien sur! So I’m basically having a trophy engraved for myself this weekend is what I’m telling, y’all.


After I finished the roux, it was time to deal with the onions which continued to soak in two cups of pure cholesterol. I looked through the cabinets for inspiration and found a colander. I figured: if you can drain beans, then you can drain butter off of onions. I mean, it’s only ridiculously expensive, grass fed Kerrygold butter. Why not wash a full stick down the sink?

No use crying over strained butter… though I have the sad feeling I’m not going to have the funds to go get tea this week.

From there, onions went into the (still amazingly-fantastic-thank-you-very-much) roux and then whole whipping cream… Annnnnd suddenly, I’m worried this was perhaps a case of letter of the law, but not the spirit when it comes to Ash Wednesday, but we’ve come too far now, y’all. There is no unburning the broccoli.

Finally it was time for the shredded cheese. Alllllll the shredded cheese. Some lovely extra sharp cheddar. It turned the soup a rich (probably unnatural) orange, and I let it bubble until it thickened.


I proudly presented bowls of it to the girls (as Eric was out for the evening with the band). I laid it on thick: “Y’all are gonna LOVE this! It’s cheese! And broccoli! Y’all love cheese and broccoli!”

My 11 year old took a bite and the 4 year old followed along like a little shadow. Her tiny little face looked across the table, caught my eye, and she solemnly said, “No.”



“What does that mean?”

“This not something good.”

“But… cheese! …broccoli!”

“Yes. I do not like that there is cheese…. between the broccolis.”

I looked over at her big sister who was still primly taking bites and congratulated myself on winning her over once again. She looked at me and asked quietly: “Mom, is it okay if… I’m done?”

“Did you not like it?”

“It was okay. It just.. I don’t know.”

“Maybe if you tell me what you didn’t like about it, I can work on it, or try and avoid the part you didn’t like next time.”

“Okay. Well… I guess the thing is… the part I didn’t like was… well… the taste.”

I’ll just be calling to have that engraving on my trophy changed from “Roux” to “Rue.”


Eric got home from band practice and heated up a bowl for himself. It could’ve just been his sense of self preservation or possibly the fact that he had fasted all day, but he said it was amazing, even better than one of his favorite broccoli cheese soups from a local restaurant. I’m going to go with his critique. What do kids know about fine cuisine anyway?  


2 thoughts on “Lenten Penance”

  1. There’s something that I just love about the fact that though separated by hundreds of miles, we consumed the same soup on Ash Wednesday. I’m sure it was delicious but next time I promise to provide more detailed instructions. 😉


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