Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Brown Windsor Soup

Alfred looked at the soup in his bowl and stirred it half-heartedly with his spoon.  “What on earth is this?”

“That sir,” said Agnes Findlay, the Scottish Housekeeper, “Is Queen Victoria’s Brown Windsor Soup.  This very soup built the British Empire and was very fashionable during her reign.  She used to have it served at Windsor Castle.”

“Oh really,” said Alfred, lifting a spoonful to his nose and sniffing it, then tentatively taking a taste.  “Now that’s not half-bad.  What’s in it?”

“Well, sir,” said Agnes, “it’s beef and mutton in a beef broth with carrots, onions, and parsnips.  Quite nourishing!  I’ve served it the traditional way with scones.”

Mother picked up a scone, broke it in two, slathered it with butter and took a bite.  “You know, Alfred, I’m not always in the mood for something new.”  She eyed the soup suspiciously and took another bite of her scone.

I have noticed, Mother,” said Alfred, “that from time to time you seem apprehensive about new things.”

Mother glared at Alfred, “Now why would you say that Alfred?”

            “Well, Mother,” said Alfred, “When we were talking with Horace on Sunday his funny little story about the farmer shooting his dog put me in mind of your Grandfather Talliaferro’s lupara shotgun and the time you discharged it out the front door in the dark and shot our next door neighbor in the rump with a little rock salt. Now, why do you think you did that?”

            Mother was silent for a few moments and idly stirred her Brown Windsor Soup with her spoon, then took a tiny sip, put her spoon down, considered her soup meditatively, then picked up her spoon and took a spoonful.

            “You’re right Alfred, It’s not half bad,” said Mother as she took another spoonful.

            “Regarding my question, Mother,” said Alfred, “what was going through your mind when you discharged that lupara out the front door?”

            Mother said rather defensively, “Well, Alfred, I was just a little frightened. I didn't know our neighbour thought she had seen a skunk and was trying to shoot it; at that it was probably that ugly black and white pug across the street.”

            Alfred buttered a scone and applied himself manfully to the bowl of Brown Windsor Soup, saying, “If this soup is good enough for Queen Victoria, it’s good enough for me.’

            “Well, Alfred,” said Mother challengingly, “Let me ask you a question.  Are you ever afraid?”

            Alfred put his spoon down and looked at Mother, “Certainly,” he said.

            “Well, Alfred,” demanded Mother, “how do you deal with fears?”

            Alfred thought for a few moments; then replied.  “It’s something I learned in combat.  Everyone who is wide awake in the face of danger is afraid. Facing it is a matter of respect for authority.  When I’m afraid, I just do my duty as best I can.  If I’m afraid I tell myself, ‘Be a man! Buck up!’[i]  Do what you need to do.  Did you know Mother than I really had to deal with my fears all through the Lenten season?  That’s why ‘I fled Him down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind.’[ii]  I was desperately afraid of allowing God to be in control; as if somehow He wasn’t competent.

            “Oh,” said Mother suddenly, “That’s just how I feel.”

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth.” (Isaiah 54:4).

[i] Edith Nesbit, The Wouldbegoods, 1901.
[ii] Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven.

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