Meatless hot and sour soup.

In the aftermath of yesterday’s chaos, Nick spent today on the couch, fielding phone calls from everyone in the world and suggesting today was the day I take charge of his correspondence. No luck with that, so every 30 minutes he’s telling the same story. The cat seems to sense something is wrong, and has been his constant companion. I am helping by drinking all the wine.

We still had yesterday’s groceries in bags as I’d just shoved them into the fridge before running out to the ER, and since my only outing all day was  to get Nick’s prescription, I figured we might as well do Meatless Monday over.

We’ve been battling colds (it’s starting to feel like like we’ve always been battling colds), so soup was what we wanted yesterday, specifically hot and sour soup, and to be able to eat within fifteen minutes of arriving home after a long day. I picked up some fat white mushrooms and some crisp-looking bok choy, and couldn’t wait to eat.

You could use cabbage, if that’s what you’ve got, or any leafy green thing you have on hand. The point here is ease while still making a dinner that’s somewhat interesting. This is a short-cut version of the kind of hot and sour soup I’d have delivered if it didn’t take so little time to make, a soup that captures the gist of what I’m after when I’m after salt and spice and tang, and it makes enough for four to six people. This is the basic recipe, but if you like it hotter, or sourer, or if you prefer a bit of lemongrass, or chicken or pork instead of tofu, there’s room for creativity and adaptation.

Meatless hot and sour soup

  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic (heaping)
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger (heaping)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. sriracha, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 block tofu, cubed
  • 3 cups thinly sliced bok choy
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Bean sprouts and chopped scallions and cilantro for garnish

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook garlic and ginger in sesame oil until fragrant. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha, and honey, and stir to combine. Let simmer one to two minutes, until reduced by a third. Add stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly so that liquid comes to a simmer. Add tofu, bok choy, and mushrooms, and let cook three to five minutes, until bok choy has wilted. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. I used homemade stock, so I had to add a little bit of salt. If you’re fighting sniffles, a little more hot sauce might be a good idea.

Stirring the liquid in the pot, pour the egg in a steady stream, swirling the liquid so that the egg forms many strands. If you don’t keep the liquid moving, the egg will form an unappetizing-looking glob.

Serve immediately, garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro as desired. I bring out the bottle of sesame oil and the sriracha as well.

Thank you again. And now I need your happy thoughts for someone else.

Finally, a glass of wine. It’s been one of those days.

It started late, with a groggy phone call and the realization that the results were in for the Canadian Food Blog Awards, and that somehow this blog had won the People’s Choice category. I made plans to write a thank you/Meatless Monday post in the evening, and then we threw ourselves into action. I have the week off, and Nick took the day off work to get some blood tests he’d been putting off since November (Too busy! Always so busy!) and to check in with his adviser at UBC. I had a meeting with a designer related to some work stuff, and at some point I’d have to make stock and test a soup recipe for Meatless Monday and maybe tidy this perpetually messy apartment and do some laundry. It all seemed doable, and around 4:30 we’d done everything we needed to do errand-wise and I had a bag of groceries in hand that would form the basis for dinner.

And then the doctor called, because Nick’s glucose levels were alarmingly high. And he was told to get himself to the emergency room RIGHT NOW and fortunately we live five minutes from Vancouver General. When we got there, they processed him quickly, which was suspicious because that never happens in Emergency unless it’s, like, an emergency.

These past few weeks I have been my own number-one priority, and Nick has been excellent support during this month of talking about me. With work so busy, and wanting to get into grad school, and blog contests and writing contests and recipe contests, I have been self-absorbed beyond what is ordinarily reasonable. And Nick hasn’t felt well, but he assumed that he probably had some seasonal thing and that he was just worn out, the last months of 2010 having drained him – they were frantic. And I assumed that he knew what he was talking about, and figured we probably both just needed fewer glasses of wine and more exercise and to go to bed on time.

There are several really good reasons why we are writers, not doctors.

At 6:30 he was on a bed in the ER wearing a blue gown and ankle socks, having just given up his second batch of blood for the day. The doctor spoke slowly and simply, and said that there would be tests, and that we would be there awhile. There was talk of Nick being monitored overnight, and then a nurse gave him a tuna sandwich and a cup of pink yogurt and his levels were still high but closer to not-terrifying. We waited, played hangman, and tried to ignore the ominous sounds in the hallway and the constant swish of cotton pants and squeaking of rubber soles and gurney wheels. I told several hilarious jokes and Nick’s dad drove all the way in from Surrey.

Nick is mostly fine, and will survive. They let him go home for the night, and he is sleeping. We ate a small, healthy dinner, and tomorrow he will make an appointment with an endocrinologist and pick up his prescription and in a little while we will know what is wrong.

What timing, I keep thinking, and I’m glad that he finally set some time aside for the blood tests, and that they caught whatever it was before something devastating happened. In the grand scheme of things, he will be okay – please think happy thoughts for him, as I kind of like him and have just gotten used to having him around.

I am also relieved to have put my own madness into perspective. If all my dreams don’t come true in the first week of February 2011, there will still be lots of time. And in the meantime, it’s flattering and humbling to have this collection of recipes, stories, and bad photos passed around and voted for. If I did not have such stubby T-Rex arms I would hug each of you at once.

Thank you for your support and happy thoughts and witty comments and enthusiastic offers of blog linkage. I have secretly loved all the attention.

And I promise, tomorrow we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming.