⟨ Food ⟩

Best before…

Pumpkin soup

Texts and Photography / 林琪香

「我做了南瓜湯啊。」

嗯!」聽到陽太的回應,由起子便推門進去。

每年萬聖節之後,由起子都會去敲陽太的房間。他們住在同一幢Share House之中,萬聖節前夕,房東總為房客各準備一個小南瓜。大伙兒聚在起居室之中興高彩烈地埋頭苦幹,把小南瓜挖空再造成鬼臉。每年這個時候,由起子總抱著南瓜躲著房間裡,翌日晚上,她便站在起居室的開放式廚房裡,邊看著牆角那堆造成燈飾的南瓜鬼臉一閃一亮,邊煮她的南瓜湯。

「太浪費了。南瓜還是吃在肚裡好。」由起子把南瓜湯放在陽太有點搖晃的摺疊小茶几上,隨便抓起地上一張宣傳單張,疊成小塊,塞在離地的那隻腳下。關掉他床頭正在放古典樂的唱機,換上了她喜歡的Bossa Nova,然後便逕自靠在床上。

「你的被子有潮濕的氣味呢。怎麼不曬一下?」由起子問。

「一樓的房間沒有陽台。」陽太呷了一口湯,咀嚼著糊糊的南瓜粒。

Share House裡沒攪拌機,由起子習慣用湯匙把煮軟了的南瓜壓爛,卻壓不均,湯裡總是浮著幾塊南瓜粒。陽太進市內唸大學後便住進這家Share House,在這裡認識了同是大學生的由起子,自由起子手上接到第一碗現煮的南瓜湯。他一直以為罐頭以外的南瓜湯都是這樣浮著一塊塊南瓜粒的,直到後來談戀愛了,兼職賺到錢帶女朋友上餐廳,才知道,那其實是由起子的特色。

「你可以拿到我房間曬的。」由起子把臉湊在棉被上,深深地吸了一口,空氣裡有著南瓜湯的甜美,與淡淡的霉臭。甜美是她帶來的,霉臭是他的。這是他們的味道,她覺得。

陽太背著她靠著床緣,由起子看不到他的表情,只聽到鐵湯匙踫撞到瓷碗噹噹作響。

「這個時間,你不用跟紐約的男朋友通Skype嗎?」陽太拌著那碗盛在拉麵碗裡的南瓜湯。由起子怎麼總愛盛那麼一大碗呢?

「吵架了。」由起子隨著音樂的節奏揮動著指頭,幻想著指頭會畫出彩虹色的光線。「陽太……我們認識多久了?……」

「五年了吧。大學畢業快一年了。」

由起子看著自己的指頭在空中遊移。「你還想搬出去嗎?」指頭停留在燈泡下,那點黃燈,在她的指尖後化為日蝕。「那時你不是說,畢業找到工作後就要搬到大房子去,叫我也搬進去……」

鐵湯匙噹噹作響,良久,陽太說:「我說過這樣的話呢……」鐵湯匙噹噹作響。

音樂稍作靜止了,由起子突然從床上跳起來:「你的房間太臭了,我要回去了。喝完把碗放在我門口。」

「好的。」陽太看著由起子的背影沒在門後,然後便聽到樓梯上緩慢的腳步聲,自近至遠。

第二天早上,由起子拉開房門,門前放著昨天她送到陽太房間的拉麵碗,碗下壓著一張紙條:「我不一心把湯擱到今早才喝,可能放太久了,變稠了,口感有點不一樣了。味道還是很好,但是,就是不一樣了。」

*

南瓜湯

材料:南瓜半個(約300克)、洋䓤(1/4個)、水、豆乳

調味料:鹽及黑糊椒各少許

做法:

1. 先把洋葱切成小粒,南瓜切塊;

2. 把洋葱炒至金黃色;

3. 加入南瓜及水,水只要足夠舖滿鍋底就可以;

4. 將南瓜煮軟,若中途水不足,請再加一點。

5. 倒入豆乳,分量隨意;6. 豆乳煮滾後,用攪拌機將所有食料打成糊狀;

7. 再添加豆乳直到自己喜歡的濃稠程度;

8. 煮滾,並以鹽及糊椒調味。完成。


“I’ve made some pumpkin soup.”

“Sure.” upon hearing Hatuta’s reply, Yukiko pushes open the door and enters.

Knocking on Hatuta’s door has become an annual post-Halloween ritual of Yukiko. The two live in the same shared house where the landlord would prepare a small pumpkin as a Halloween gift for every tenant. While the crowd gather in the living room and happily carve their jack-o’-lanterns together, Yukiko would secretly stay in her room whole night holding the pumpkin. The day after, she would go to the open kitchen in the living room and prepare her pumpkin soup in front of the bunch of jack-o’-lanterns.

“It’d be such a waste not to eat those pumpkins.” Yukiko puts down the soup on Hatuta’s wobbly coffee table, before randomly picking up a flyer from the floor to fold it up and wedge under one of the legs to stabilize the table. She turns off the classical music playing on the record player, puts on her favorite Bossa Nova record, and then simply leans on the bed.

“Your blanket smells rather musty, why don’t you air it out under the sun?” asks Yukiko.

“There’s no balcony on the first floor.” Hatuta takes a sip of the soup and munches on the mushy pumpkin flesh.

Since there’s no blender in the shared house, Yukiko would use a spoon to mash up the pumpkin flesh after they get cooked soft. There’re always some pieces of pumpkin flesh floating around as she cannot mash it evenly simply by using a spoon. Hatuta started living in the shared house ever since he moved to the city for college, and there he met Yukiko, who was also a college student. Yukiko’s pumpkin soup gave him an impression that freshly-made pumpkin soup should always have pieces of pumpkin flesh swimming around; it was only until he started to make money from part-time jobs and brought his girlfriend to a restaurant, then he realized that was actually Yukiko’s signature way of making this soup.

“You can air out the blanket in my room.” Yukiko takes a deep sniff of the blanket, which exudes a sweet smell of pumpkin soup as well as a mild musty smell. The sweet smell brought by her, and the musty smell comes from him, she thinks to herself, the sweetness and the mustiness together is a joined smell of the two of them.

Hatuta leans on the rim of the bed with his back facing her. Yukiko can only hear the sound of his spoon clanking against the ceramic bowl, without seeing any of his expression.

“Don’t you need to have a Skype call with your boyfriend in New York at this time of the day?”, says Hatuta as he stirs the soup in this ramen bowl. Why does Yukiko always need to give such a big portion?

“We had a fight.” Yukiko swings her finger in the air to the rhythm of the music, imagines it would draw beams in rainbow colors, “Hatuta, how long have we known each other?”

“Perhaps five years? I have graduated for almost one year now.”

Yukiko stares at her finger flying in the air. “Are you still thinking of moving out?”  She rests her finger on a lightbulb, leaving the fingertip glowing with a ring of light like an eclipse. “Didn’t you talk about moving to a bigger place once you found a job after graduation? You said you would ask me to move in too.”

The iron spoon keeps on clanking for a good while before Hatuta says, “Did I say something like this?” The spoon clanks again.

The music goes to a stop and Yukiko jumps out of his bed. “Your room stinks, I’m heading back. Just put the bowl outside of my room when you’re done.”

“Alright.” Hatuta watches as Yukiko’s back disappears from his sight. He can hear her footsteps walking on the stairs, the sound fades away slowly.

The next morning, Yukiko pulls open the door to find the ramen bowl standing right in front. Underneath the bowl is a small note, that reads, “ I accidently left the soup overnight and only got to finish it this morning. Perhaps it rested too long and became thick, the texture was a bit different. It still tasted pretty good, but it’s no longer the same.”

*

Pumpkin soup

Ingredients:

½ Pumpkin (around 300g), ¼ Onion, Water, Soy milk

Seasoning:

A pinch of salt and pepper

 

Steps:

1. Finely chop the onion and dice up the pumpkin flesh.

2. Caramelise the onion.

3. Add pumpkin. Pour in water until it covers the bottom of the pot.

4. Cook pumpkin until soft, add extra amount of water when needed.

5. Pour in flexible amount of soy milk depending on personal preference.

6. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and use a blender to blend until smooth.

7. Add extra soy milk to bring the soup to desired thickness.

8. Bring the soup to a simmer, season to taste with salt and pepper. Ready to serve.