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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bean Soup and the Writer

I was talking to my mom the other day, telling her about my plans for the weekend. It was going to be a cooking weekend. A vat of bean soup, brown rice and black bean burritos to freeze for my husband's lunches and as many whole wheat blueberry muffins as I could stand to bake for my kids breakfast to last at least a week or two.
Somewhere in the conversation I started to bring up Donald Graves and was asking my mom, who happens to be a former second grade teacher, if she owned any of his books. We talked about how writing was going in my class lately and the struggles I have had figuring it all out. We finished our conversation and went about our day.
About an hour later she called me and said she couldn't stop thinking about my bean soup and how it was just like the little writer's in my classroom. She was right.

You start with dry beans and a ham bone. You soak the beans overnight. You can't rush the absorption of water into the bean unless you apply some heat. I choose to let the process do what the process does. I wait.
I make a ham stock. I throw in the bone, lots of water, some bay leaves, salt and pepper along with the mirepoix--the  carrot, onion, celery base that goes in practically all soups. The essential materials to the process of making a good soup. A good foundation of flavors. Hours pass until the liquid has reduced by at least half if not more. After straining the ingredients through some cheese cloth a beautiful, pure golden liquid is revealed.
Then, and only then does the soup itself really begin to take shape. All those parts, the beans, the bone, the brothy liquid, the mirepoix, they lay the foundation of this soup. The soup can't happen until all those little steps are in place and prepared.
Just like a little writer. Soak, wait, reduce until it is packed full of all the beauty it can muster and then create the next chapter for all those ingredients together as something new.

7 comments:

  1. I love this metaphor, but mostly I am struck by the ease of your relationship with your mother. She clearly provides the kind of friendship, guidance, and collaboration that I treasure from my own mother. Thanks for reminding me!

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  2. Your comparison is so powerful! It really helps me think about writing instruction in workshop and how it takes time. Sometimes we want to rush our students on to the next step when we should really let them have the time they need to develop. thanks for the metaphor!

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  3. Aren't moms smart? I can tell this thinking has been simmering in your mind and the richness of that thinking is coming out.

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  4. What a great metaphor... it takes time. I'll be thinking about the mirepoix of my own classroom. Thanks for my early morning inspiration!

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  5. The others are right. This is a great metaphor--and a great reminder that writing takes a while to simmer--thanks for sharing!

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  6. Beautiful metaphor. I also learned a new word--mirepoix! I took French but never came across that term. And I love the idea of thinking that new, little writers are beans to grow and wallow in the goodness of writing.

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  7. Love <3 this.
    And love that Mom called you back to tell you that!

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