I’m a big, fat vat of soup.  Deep below my surface, I am roiling, ingredients churning, interacting, breaking down to add flavor and texture.  Sometimes I’m hot and bubbling, giving off a delicious aroma. At other times, I’m tepid and lifeless, the gas off, a greasy film forming, unappetizing, dull.

What’s in the soup? Well, let’s dip in the ladle and fish out an ingredient. Ooh, it’s a book I’ve owned since I was eight, dog-eared and well-thumbed, its browning pages loose in the binding. How to be Topp is a satire about success written by a fictional school boy. It’s a fairly silly book and I don’t think I’ve ever read it all the way through. But it was illustrated by Ronald Searle and its pages are full of splatters, spidery calligraphy and loose, scratchy drawings. I may not look at this book for years but it’s in the soup, adding its flavor.

When I was eight I read a lot, several books a week. It’s a pattern I have kept up ever since. Each of the many books stacked on many bedside, in my Kindle, on my phone, and my desk, all end up sliced, diced and scraped into the soup. Many of them break down completely, their pages diluted, vanishing from memory. But each sentence, like a single granule of salt or a delicate frond of dill, though disintegrated, has added  a few more molecules to the flavor and body of the soup that is me.

There are the Grove Press books on the top shelf of my grandfather’s study, “grownup up” books I climbed up to purloin and read in private. There are all the Gerald Durrell books that fed my fantasies about raking through the jungles of Borneo and Brazil for aardvarks and toucans, kitted out with a solar topi and a butterfly net.  There are 92 volumes of PG Wodehouse, Professor Branestawm, Raymond Chandler, Geoffrey Chaucer, Spiderman.

There’s the girl I kissed in David Heller’s basement in 1975, the bucket of coffee cooked over a campfire on a patch of Israeli wasteland one dawn, the snow boots my mother made me wear that were too big and made me trip over every hummock of snow in downtown Brooklyn. There’s my dog Pogo’s third litter of puppies, two stillborn. The boss who yelled at me while eating an egg salad sandwich. My first Rapid-o-liner. My second stepfather’s broken toe when he kicked in the door of my mum’s MGB. All are bobbing in the drink, coming up to the surface, then subsiding like Moby Dick into the darkness below. There’s Moby Dick, Holden Caulfield, JJ ‘Dynomite’ Walker, the English Beat, my Latin teacher, Jenny’s stuffed hippos, Jack’s soccer cleats, my Pakistani orthodontist.

My soup is rich and complex and like none other, a unique combination of stuff that has been cooking for decades. It contains some ingredients found in your soup, maybe lots of them, but the way they interact with the rest of the bits and bobs bobbing around is all mine, all me.

This cauldron of soup is the source of all I create. If I write a story, make a drawing, come up with an idea, it’s all because of this big bubbling vat of experiences and influences. If I neglect the soup, forget to add new spices, fail to stir it up and fill some new bowls, let the pilot light go out and the temperature cool, the soup becomes anemic and tasteless, a bland consommé that’s forgettable and without value.  But if I work the soup, it fills me up.

Being an artist or a writer means reading, looking, listening, cribbing, copying, from a zillion sources. That’s much of our job. These slices of inspiration may have disproportionate effect when they first enter the soup, big undigested chunks that are too obvious when they show up in the work. But over time they break down and dissolve, leaving only ripples that intertwine with others to form a new flavor note, subtle and unique.

We are all vats of soup. Make sure you tend yours, stirring and adding new ingredients every day. Keep the hot on medium-high and take the lid off now and then. And don’t be afraid to dish it up to share with others, to pour a few tablespoons into their tureens. I want to taste your soup. Here’s a spoonful of mine.

65 thoughts on “Soup.”

  1. Reeeeeeeeally like this.

    Funny. I was just in shower starting to berate myself for all the (many) things I’ve started, shown interest in and then subsequently “failed” at. But have I failed?

    I forgave myself (when does that happen?! And I ain’t even read your “monkey” book yet). Everything I’ve taken an interest in serves me in some productive, creative -often unexpected-way. So there’s really no shame in that is there?

    Thanks oodles for this.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Oh my… such deep thinking so early this morning! Well… Sometimes I’m just a broth. Clear, clean, vibrant and exciting flavors each standing on their own merit. Other times… mostly in the winter months, I turn the heat up and everything bubbles and boils into a thick ‘stick to your ribs’ bowl of comfort!

    I totally enjoy reading when you dig deep. It reminds me to stop what I’m doing and pay attention to what’s going on around me, and IN me.

    Keep on creating! Be it drawing, painting, cooking, sewing, writing, or whatever floats your boat. It’s great for the soul.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. This is the first email I’ve read this morning. I LOVE IT! It’s thought provoking, tastefully spicy, and every word is worthy of re-reading. This is excellent and a keeper.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thanks for coming back to us, Danny! I once told a close friend sometimes I feel like a jello that’s been turned out of the mold too early–random, messy, beyond fixing. She blinked a few times and said, “But you don’t even like jello.” So, Danny, you’ve taken my silly analogy and made soup, which I love. Thanks for adding to mine.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. What a beautifully written piece. Thank you, Danny. For me, soup could not be a better analogy. I love to make soup. Any kind. Preparing one by one the aromatic and colorful ingredients. Then to wait for it to blend and become one wonderful, tasty experience. And so is my life. After pondering on your “Dabbling” blog, I realized that through all of my trials and errors, in both life and art, I am simply adding more to my soup, to me. To try and create and enrich. By doing so, I can also add to others lives. Share my art, share my experiences, invite people in for a bowl of soup, literally and figuratively. Great stuff. Karen

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Danny–I have been following you since I found your first book. THIS goes to the top as one of my favorite things you have put down on paper.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This was delicious. If only I could write like this. I think I’ll go make some soup and finish some of my watercolors. Thank you, Danny. So nice to have you back. Judy

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Hi Danny

    What a beautiful writing…
    I do not think you left any ingredients out when you put these words on paper. One could make a movie of your script!

    And always a pleasure to read about the things that churn
    your mind and soul. This one, in particular, reveals your soul at a deep level.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. A perfect description of the complex set of ingredients and experiences that make us individual humans. Thanks Danny – this was a great piece.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I like stealilng from your analogy and seeing myself in a huge pot on a back burner of my stove; heat on low right now, simmering, coming to life with each newly added ingrediant, spice, herb, idea! Knowing that this pot of soup is still very much alive and growing, growing richer by the day, always better the next day from melding all the flavors together. Realizing that all the additions from my past have grown together to make the me I am today, for better or for worse, but at least interesting, sometimes exciting, often colorful! What a fun way to see LIFE!
    B’ta Avon! Bon Appetite, Good Appetite!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. What a great article Danny. Adding sbs to my vat of soup has led to a commission. I would never have sketched on location had it not been for SBS. While sketching in town one day, a guy with a Harley motorcycle came up and asked me to sketch him and his bike. Turned out quite well and he may drum up more business for me with his bike club. An unexpected benefit of your klasses and encouragement! Also had 2 shop owners approach me after sketching their boutiques! You have to keep added to your recipe to enhance the favors!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. I always love trying new things to add more variety to my life. With new experiences you are never quite sure of what to expect, and often nervous and excited. After it becomes familiar is when you can work to finesse whatever skills you are trying to learn. So then the flavour of your soup may begin to taste like your personality.

    Cool analogy, I like it!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh my goodness! I have not been touched so. I am a pot of soup. I will keep stirring mine and adding more ingredients of course. I am reblogging this now now. Thank you for sharing your soup.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. So well written , I wish I could read like you do. Unfortunately I can only read small write ups like blog. My constant failure at reading makes me think may be I will never be able to write more than few pages. I wish to enrich my soup but I get deviated 😦 ..

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Right on.

    Two more things for me:

    My soup is never the same from one day to the next.

    If it’s not in the soup on the day I’m writing, then I can’t write it.

    Thanks for this gem of a post.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. How to Be Topp is in my ‘soup’ too! (chiz chiz chiz) A timely reminder that consuming the works of others can be essential to personal creative output!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. This is absolutely insane… I saw your book, School for Evil, on somebody’s shelf this morning, having never heard of you… and I come home to THIS in my Reader! Thanks for this fabulous post. Funny how the best analogies are always the ones that make you say, “Of course! Why did that never occur to me?” Except that it didn’t, and that’s what makes it so brilliant.

    Liked by 3 people

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