Monday, February 15, 2010

So Much Soup, Not So Much Song

Tonight I made the most delicious soup, so delicious it thrilled me a little bit. Said soup was the Tom Yum (hot and sour lemongrass) soup from the cookbook Bhudda's Table by Chat Mingkwan, whose subtitle is "Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style". This soup will cure what ails you. It's nicely spicy thanks to the wickedly hot thai chiles, but more than that, it's just perfectly balanced thanks to the combination of fresh lemongrass, shallots, galangal, lime juice and chili paste. I dare say it tasted *almost* as good as a soup you'd get in a real Thai restaurant. I've been feeling pretty good these days but if I should succumb to the winter cold or flu, I know exactly what soup I'll be eating to warm the bones and clear out the sinuses!

I can't even count the number of pots of soup I've made recently. A favorite one that I've made again and again is this Japanese Hot Pot recipe by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, featuring the completely addictive combination of kabocha squash, taro root, and both dried and fresh mushrooms, just for starters.

Yes, soup has been coming out of my ears. Soup has been constantly flowing in my kitchen. But what about the song??? I just wish that I could write songs the way I can make soup. I mean, yes, I can follow a recipe, oh boy can I. And much of the time, I can improvise a pot of soup based upon whatever I happen to have sitting around in the fridge. Like last week, I had some cooked blackeyed peas, which I combined with sweet potatoes and yams, coconut milk and spinach and kelp noodles, and it was a bona fide hit. The idea for that soup was inspired by a friend who is recovering from surgery, whom I had signed up to make soup for during her recovery. I was pretty sure that this combination of flavors would appeal to her, and it turns out she loved it. And so did I!

But where songwriting is concerned, it seems that I have found myself in a bona fide SLUMP! I used to write a lot. A lot of it was crap but it turned out that some of it was good. But in the past year especially, I've hardly written any music at all. And it has left me seriously questioning my life as a songwriter and also, feeling pretty out of sorts about it all. And so last weekend I finally pulled my head out of my ass and decided to do something about it. Last weekend I participated, once again, in my lodge's version of the Immersion Composition Society. The short description is that we pick a day, and on that day, we each write AND record as many songs as possible in that given day. And then we meet up that night to play for our cohorts the fruits of our labors from the day. And each time I've done it, even though it has been frustrating and scary and maddening, it's never failed to help me find inspiration I never even dreamed of previously. And more often than not, I've usually ended up with a song or two that was a keeper.

Well last weekend, I had a crisis. I spent a good 8 hours writing and strumming and doing my best to create songs out of thin air. But about halfway through the day, I was seriously distraught. I wasn't coming up with anything that wasn't completely ridiculous or self-indulgent. Or whiny. Or Just.Plain.Lame. I thought to myself that perhaps my life as a songwriter has come to an end. And I wrote page after page of blather. I tried to be kind to myself and tell myself that I just needed to get unstuck and that maybe after being stuck for so long, that it might take awhile to get unstuck. And I alternated those kinds of sentiments with other kinds of sentiments, sentiments that aren't nearly so kind or forgiving. You know... the kinds of sentiments that say forget it, you suck, you'll never utter another interesting word again, and you should maybe just give it up and spend the rest of your days in the kitchen making soup. Because you KNOW how to do that. And honestly, if I spent the rest of my days making soup and not song, life wouldn't be so bad. But the truth is, I'm just not ready to give up the SONG part of me yet. So I'm trying to listen to the kinder parts of myself and making some effort to ignore the not so kind parts, for now anyway.

I am not yet unstuck, but maybe I'm not still completely stuck. Maybe it's a fine, fine line. And so I'm just going to keep chipping away and see where it leads me. It might just lead me straight back into the kitchen, soothing myself with soup or copious amounts of alcohol, who knows? But that thrill that I had when I slurped the first spoonful of tonight's soup... I'd love to have that kind of thrill again after having finished a song, a song that feels good. A song that might make other people feel good, too. Wish me luck, cause I feel like I really need it.


cww said...

Keep writing. It'll happen. You're a songwriter and the songs need you so we can hear them. They're all rattling around inside you, waiting for the gates to open. Write about the flavors.

Soup and Song said...

Aw, thank you Captive Wild Woman! I appreciate the vote of confidence. I'll keep at it, I will!