My favorite part about the cold is seeking out warmth. I love being able to put on a sweater in the morning and bundle up in my blankets, letting the cloth form a protective cocoon around me. The warmth derived from the cold is different from the heat of summer — it comforts me without being restrictive, and its elusiveness in the chill of the fall makes me appreciate it more.
It isn’t enough to just warm the outside of my body with a jacket, though. The cold also makes me crave the comfort of the simplest food on Earth: soup. Drinking a hot bowl of soup while it’s raining outside feels like the greatest luxury in the world. My anxiety melts away as the soup goes down my throat, warming me from within and convincing me that this bowl of soup is really all that I need to survive.
I’ve done ridiculous things for soup. I once waited outside in near-freezing rain for a cup of lamb and vegetable soup, and the satisfaction of drinking it in my apartment made me forget about the half-hour wait and my thawing fingertips. The soup was worth it, as all soup usually is, because it is hard to boil vegetables and meat in water incorrectly.
That soup felt like a gift. The chili in it made my nose run. Eating it made me feel like my world was composed solely of my mouth, my hand and the spoonful of soup that it was holding. It reminded me of the soup I ate as a kid when the weather got cold, the potful of soup that was lovingly and carefully tended to by my whole family.
I love all kinds of soup, but my favorite is my mother’s Nahari. It’s a meat-based soup that she usually makes with lamb trotters or chicken, mixed with onions, garlic and spices. The recipe is in a little notebook that is brown from age and falling apart, written in my mother’s unintelligible handwriting. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how she makes it, but I watch carefully as she fries the onions and then adds the meat and the masala. The aroma is amazing and the hours that it takes to cook seem to pass excruciatingly slowly. Once every 20 minutes, I would stir the mixture around, happy to contribute anything to the meal.
The meat of the Nahari is so tender that some of it has pulled away from the bone and floats around in the pot full of the light brown broth. Some of the bones have marrow in them, which we’ll blow out to enjoy with the rest of the soup.
My parents used to eat Nahari year-round when they lived in Hyderabad, India. The restaurants there would usually serve a spicier version, but my mom has always cut down on some of the spice to suit our American palettes. It still tastes good in its mild form, though — the flavors are actually more enjoyable when your eyes aren’t tearing up from the heat.
I’ve never eaten the Hyderabadi Nahari that my parents grew up on, but I feel like I’m experiencing it every time my mother makes it. They reminisce about their childhood over their steaming bowls of soup and I’ve always felt grateful for her taking the time to recreate it for us.
We eat Nahari with chewy bread that soaks up the soup until it’s soft. The bread is torn up into little pieces and added to the bowl, forming a perfect mouthful of broth, meat and carbs. I always end up eating a little too much when the Nahari is freshly made, and the combination of the hot soup and bread always makes my eyes heavy, convincing me to push the tasks of today to tomorrow even though it is supposed to be a breakfast food.
As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, I look forward to the satisfaction of drinking soup for warmth again — wrapped in a warm blanket, enjoying the simplest but most healing food on earth.
MiC Columnist Safura Syed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.