The Story of a Soup by Robynn
It was years ago God gave us the Wilson family!
John and Kamala Wilson ran a guest house in the small mountain town of Coonoor in South India. We first checked in to the guest house when our Bronwynn was only 2 months old. We had come, our bedraggled family of five, for rest. We left two weeks later with so much more than that. We had found new friends, a new family! “Uncle Wilson” and “Auntie Kamala”, as our kids came to affectionately call them, invited us into their hearts and lives. They loved us generously and deeply. And it was ever so easy to love them back.
Kamala had been raised by two British missionary women. These two women adopted several girls and raised them as their own. Kamala learned from one to cook and bake and create delightful delicacies in the kitchen. From the other she learned to play the piano and to play games. She became good at both! John grew up in an Anglo-Indian home, thus his very English name. The two of them met at Bible school and married soon afterwards. They had three lovely children, Timothy, Gauis and Sharon.
The guest house, under Wilson and Kamala’s special care, ministered to the bodies as well as to the souls of those who passed through. Afternoon tea was staged out on the lawn, surrounded by the green tea plantation fields, if the weather allowed. Kamala always baked up special treats for tea. There was always fresh bread and homemade jam or lemon curd. There was cake or biscuits (of the British variety), a salty snack and of course the tea! In the evening after dinner, there was more tea and a Bible reading and prayers in the sitting room.
Auntie Kamala loved to bake and cook. She collected recipes from various cookbooks but also from international guests that haled from all over! Family recipes for shortbread or lamington or lemon squares, pavlova or trifle were shared with Kamala. She tried out recipes for casseroles, soups and pasta dishes. Each recipe was written down in a little note book or kept in a scrapbook. Each recipe was tested in her little kitchen.
It was there at Coonoor that we first tried Curried Pumpkin and Bacon Soup. We were the only guests and Uncle Wilson had given the staff the day off. Auntie Kamala made us supper that evening. Fresh bread and this amazingly thick consoling bowl of soup! Although it had “curry” in the name, it really wasn’t an Indian recipe. My memory may fail, but it seems to me that Kamala had found that particular recipe in an Australian cookbook that a former guest and friend had gifted her. Here we were South Indians, Americans, Canadians basking in bowls of thick stew-soup who’s recipe had likely been developed with the nostalgia of British “curry” deep down under! It was amazing.
It was the type of soup that sticks to your ribs and glues friendships together.
Later after we had left India and I reflected on our departure I wrote this about our last visit to Wilson and Kamala (who had since moved on from the guest house):
After packing up and leaving our home for all those years the girls and I flew south to some dear friends where we stayed for one week. I was still physically recovering from staph infection, severe amoebic dysentery and 18 days of antibiotics, let alone the heat, packing, good-bye parties, 1000 last-minute errands and details. Spiritually I was battered and beaten down. Emotionally I was ruined.
Wilson and Kamala were the perfect people to collapse with. They took such gentle care of the girls and I. Auntie Kamala played games, held tea parties, provided crafts and crayons. I took long naps. Wilson fixed hundreds of cups of tea. I sat in a chair in the middle of their sitting room and pathetically cried through nine complete Gaither Homecoming DVDs. In the past I’ve made fun of that music, the hairspray, the makeup, the dramatic, the crescendo—now it was the balm that soothed. Kamala fixed delicious meals to tempt my appetite again. Their adult children Sharon and Gauis came to visit. There was lots of laughter, lots of love, lots of space to begin to heal. (Expectations and Burnout 2010, p213)
It is with joy and memory that I can commend this soup to you on this chilly autumn day! It’s best enjoyed with friends and fresh bread.
Curried Pumpkin & Bacon Soup
- 500 gr pumpkin
- 3 potatoes
- 3 strips bacon
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½-1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups water, milk or cream
Cook pumpkin and potatoes. Brown bacon. Add onion and garlic and butter and spices. Cook until the onion is clear. Add vegetables and liquid. Roughly mash with a potato masher. Add more milk or water if desired. Garnish with bacon.
(*This recipe is incredibly versatile. I’ve used sweet potatoes, Indian Kohora, carrots or a combination of the three with pumpkin or in place of pumpkin. I’ve used fresh pumpkin or a tin of pureed pumpkin. I often just use bacon bits instead of cooking up strips of bacon….or I’ve omitted the bacon altogether for vegetarian or Muslim friends. However you cook it –this soup is good for the soul!)