The highs and lows of the creative process are exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.
There’s the rush of a job, an idea, or a vision in the night. Then there’s the crash of knowing serious work is ahead. The serious work comes next, followed by the acceptance or rejection of said work. Rejection can be helpful or crushing, depending on who delivers it and fatigue / hunger levels. Once you’ve sorted yourself out, it’s time to do the work again, but this time better. This process often comes with some nasty flashbacks to university exams. Or worse, an anxiety dream. I used to have the same anxiety dream, over and over again, always before a deadline.
I’m at the airport, age eighteen, dropping off my boyfriend. He and his family are travelling to Florida; hey, would I like to come? Of course! But I don’t have any luggage. I’m not ready. But look! There’s my younger sister, walking towards me with a suitcase. What are the chances! I ask her if I can borrow the suitcase and all its contents. Hmmm… she says, as the flight is being called. She kneels down and proceeds to go through the contents of the suitcase, one by one, mulling slowly over each garment, unsure of what she can part with. The flight leaves, without me, just as my sister is sorting through her socks.
The dream has shifted now, but the message is still clear: regain control. Do the work. So I wake up, laugh, or cry, then get back at it. Sometimes I procrastinate. Like right now. I’m supposed to be writing a podcast script, but it’s more fun to pop over here and capture this thought. The juices are flowing, albeit in the wrong place, but I have to encourage them. Whatever it takes.
This is my round-about way of saying that today I’m sharing with you a rejection: sweet pea soup with pickled red onions and a crumbling of feta. It wasn’t what my editor was looking for. But if I’ve learned anything from Julia Turshen on episode 20 of The Food Podcast, it’s how to turn a fail into a SMALL VICTORY. This recipe is true to me – using what I have, celebrating a bowl from a shop in my neighbourhood, capturing the sweetness of an ingredient from the back of the freezer, incorporating root vegetables from my weekly CSA basket, and crowning it all with gorgeous pink pickled onions. Practical beauty in one nourishing bowl.
It wasn’t right for the job, and that’s ok. Art is subjective. It might be right for you.
So next time you find yourself on that creative process rollercoaster, have some sweet pea soup. Take a nap. And if my sister comes to you in your dreams, say hello and tell her you don’t need her suitcase. Give her permission to go home. The poor girl has been wheeling through that airport, going through her garments, for over twenty years now.
You have your own trip planned. You’ve got this.
Pea, Leek and Potato Soup with Pickled Red Onions
2 tbsp butter
2 leeks, washed well and chopped (discard dark green tops)
1 potato, scrubbed and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb (454g) frozen peas
1 litre (4 cups) stock – chicken or vegetable
cracked pepper to taste
pickled red onions
crumbled feta (or a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche)
cracked black pepper
Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped leeks and potatoes. Stir occasionally for 2 minutes or so, until leeks have softened a little. Add salt and give vegetables a good stir. Pour stock into the pot, stir well and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Add peas to the pot, stir well, then leave to cook for 3 minutes more.
Purée soup using a blender or an immersion blender.
Garnish soup with pickled red onions, a crumbling of feta and more cracked black pepper to taste.