“Anne Shirley!” she exclaimed, “what on earth did you put into that cake?”
“Nothing but what the recipe said, Marilla,” cried Anne with a look of anguish. “Oh, isn’t it all right?”
“All right! It’s simply horrible. Mr. Allan, don’t try to eat it. Anne, taste it yourself. What flavoring did you use?”
Vanilla,” said Anne, her face scarlet with mortification after tasting the cake. “Only vanilla. Oh, Marilla, it must have been the baking powder. I had my suspicions of that bak—”
“Baking powder fiddlesticks! Go and bring me the bottle of vanilla you used.”
Anne fled to the pantry and returned with a small bottle partially filled with a brown liquid and labeled yellowly, “Best Vanilla.”
Marilla took it, uncorked it, smelled it.
“Mercy on us, Anne, you’ve flavored that cake with anodyne liniment. I broke the liniment bottle last week and poured what was left into an old empty vanilla bottle. I suppose it’s partly my fault—I should have warned you—but for pity’s sake why couldn’t you have smelled it?”
—Anne of Green Gables, L. M. Montgomery
You remember how excited I was to make that tortilla soup. I checked the pantry for ingredients yesterday and thought about it all night. Mmm. Now, astonishingly, I was out of diced tomatoes. Diced tomatoes are my little-old-lady-stockpile item. I usually have half a dozen cans. I buy them every time I shop; it’s a compulsion; I can’t explain it—and yet today? Out.
But I found a carton of Trader Joe’s roasted tomato and red pepper soup: this seemed like a tasty substitute. And I had some pollo asada, which promised to make a delicious-sounding recipe absolutely stunning.
For what happened next, I believe I shall blame my friend Alice. It’s her fault for being so engaging on the phone. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
We were chatting, and I was merrily assembling my soup. Sauteed the onions and the chicken: smelled good already. Added the tomato/red pepper soup, half the carton. Frozen corn, a can of black beans, lots of garlic, a can of green chilis. Mmm. I rummaged in the fridge to see if there was a carton of chicken broth open already. There was, almost full. I poured it in, added pepper and cumin.
It looked delicious. My mouth was watering. I had to taste it.
I was expecting that savory, spicy, cumin-and-chili tang. You may imagine, therefore, my bewilderment at what was unmistakably a sweet flavor. And what was that, nutmeg? Cloves? What on earth?
In a sudden panic I checked the tomato-pepper soup ingredients. What if Trader Joe had served up a nutmeg-spiced soup? Had I blown it, mixing this into my spicy green chilé dish?
But no, the ingredients reassured me. Tomatoes, peppers, no nutmeg, no cloves. I tasted the soup again. Odd. So very sweet! Really pretty horrible. Definitely a strong taste of—what? Ginger? Cinnamon?
And that’s when I noticed the little yellow teacup on the golden carton of chicken broth. A teacup? On broth?
“Break from the everyday” indeed. Black tea, vanilla, spices (nutmeg! cinnamon!), and honey. Just add milk! And tomato soup! And onions, garlic, chicken, and green chili!
Oh, I am a brilliant cook. My recipes? You will not find the like of them anywhere. Food Network keeps ringing my phone off the hook. I’m sorry, I tell them. I already have a job. Three or four of them, actually. I cannot be your next Food Network Star. Yes, “Melissa’s Melting Pot” is a fabulous name for my unique and eclectic kind of culinary fusion. But I’m sorry. You’ll have to get by without me. Tell you what, you may give my recipe for Tortilla Chai Soup to Rachael Ray, with my compliments. I’m pretty sure Alton Brown could get some good mileage out of it as well. There must certainly have been some interesting chemical reactions happening in my stew pot.
Well, the Food Network may be heartbroken, but my story, like Anne’s, has a fairly happy ending. I am glad to say I saved the soup. I sieved it and rinsed off all the vanilla tea broth. Saved the good stuff, the chicken, beans, veggies. Tried again with the rest of the tomato-pepper soup, some salsa, and, yes, ACTUAL CHICKEN BROTH MADE FROM CHICKENS. Not from a fancy tea concentrate Scott bought me as a present, and which it causes him great pain to know was poured down the drain. I am sorry, babe. But the soup turned out to be pretty good, didn’t it?
I think it was that hint of nutmeg beneath the cumin.