The Sugarcubes and hydroponic thyme

Or how WARM TUNES and shared STORIES can zest up your winter.

The second soup-making event of the season was on December 14, gathering Maddy Buck, an illustrator and lawyer who strives to make law more understandable via cartoons, and Krisanne Dattir, a writer and maker extraordinaire who also works as a registered nurse at a birthing center.

(To find out more about this soup-making series, click here).

A thematic account of a soup-making night in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Both the red kale and the thyme were grown locally, but in very different ways!!


For this second soup, guests brought the following: hydroponic thyme, Icelandic lamb shanks and the last garden leaves of 2019 (red kale, to be precise).

We cooked them in a cocotte with onion, garlic, fingerling potatoes, thin carrots, chicken stock, pepper and… lots of hand ground salt. (Have guests use a mortar and pestle–it’s always a hit.) This Icelandic Pot-pourri made the most delicious broth. We ate it with sourdough bread baked by Krisanne that very morning, using a “mother” she started many moons ago.

The meal was sealed with seasonal mandarins, dark chocolate and p√Ętes de fruits.


While the soup cooked and we chatted away, K and M folded and weaved colorful accordion books while I worked on some stitching. The “books” ended up in a colorful table centerpiece (and later as garlands, hanging from our holiday lanterns).

None of that was scheduled or planned. In the same way you can improvise a soup, you can improvise a session of side-by-side or collaborative making. All you need is a box of scraps, scissors and possibly some glue. Give it a try on a frigid, dreary day.

The idea of one will spark the creativity of the other, or not, and that’s fine too. If the experiment doesn’t work, you can just laugh about it all. Those are just scraps, after all.

The colorful centerpiece dialoguing with my vintage tablecloth


Knowing we were going to cook Icelandic lamb, I had planned to play some Bjork, but then decided to go for her more obscure earlier band, The Sugarcubes.

From there we went down the rabbit hole of rare, alternative tunes. It took us to Laurie Anderson, an American avant-garde composer, musician and film director, and later on to Fishmans, my favorite Japanese Alt-pop band.

The Baron (aka my husband) introduced us to Dr. Demento along the way: a radio show started in the 1970s specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings dating from the early days of phonograph records to the present. (The show is still going on online!

I personally don’t really know how to talk about music, but by simply saying “those tunes warm my heart” and by sharing the story of how I first encountered their music I was able to communicate my deep attachment to it. Music expert or not, share a warm tunes playlist with someone this winter. Hopefully they’ll share their own playlist with you and you’ll end up musically warmer and richer than you were at the beginning of the cold season.


If your guests bring special ingredients or items over, stories will inevitably come up.

Like the troubles Maddy is having with her hydroponic herb set-up. It killed the basil she loves, while it produces quantities of dill weed, an herb she really doesn’t care for. Hydroponics are very Soylent Green or Blade Runner in my mind. It’s funny to see how mainstream they are in this frigid climate.

The Icelandic lamb shanks triggered other fantastic tales, one of them involving Krisanne getting the autograph of 16 year-old Icelandic twins who had quit school to form a punk rock band.

All anecdotes people are willing to share with you are wondrous and precious. Let the soup simmer, truly listen and marvel.

Maddy was wearing a complex Nordic pattern sweater in honor of the lamb shanks. It took her so long to knit that it gave her carpal tunnel. (She’s gotten better since, thank goodness.) This sweet, imperfect sweater was cause for much joy and human connection.

Wear your imperfectly knit, sewn, handmade items, and share their stories! It takes some courage to do so, but they carry so much more meaning than a store-bought item! You can also wear machine-made things that mean something to you and share their story. Like Maddy’s strong woman socks.

Strong woman socks

ONE FINAL NOTE : This soup was made in the morning, contrary to the first one. As a result my son was much more involved in the meal. I love how he seamlessly came in and out of the cooking space and in and out of our conversations, bringing his own lot of stories to share.

I was particularly delighted when he pondered about the homemade bread or discussed the different qualities of the chocolates we were sampling.

As an unexpected result of this soup series, little J will know that all winter delights taste better when eaten with fellow human beings. And even better when attached to anecdotes and stories.

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