As a somewhat anxious child, what I looked forward to most about becoming a grown up was feeling capable. I viewed adulthood as a gleaming bastion of competence and efficiency, and I looked forward to the day when I would be initiated into the ways of knowledge and wisdom, never to feel uncertain again.
But as the milestones of adulthood came and went--high school graduation, college graduation, full-time employment, marriage, home ownership--I came to realize two things. First, there unfortunately is no epiphany of adulthood in which you suddenly know how to negotiate for a better car insurance rate or deftly handle a toxic co-worker. Second, the adults who seemed so competent to my childhood self actually had no clue. They were just making it up as they went along, and the institutions they were responsible for (university departments, law firms, banks, important federal government programs) were held together with the equivalent of chewing gum and baling wire. Being an adult made me feel just as uncertain as I always had, maybe even more so since the stakes were higher.
However, the consolation prize of adulthood is that I occasionally have moments of confidence beyond anything my ten-year-old self imagined, moments when I look the messy chaos of the world straight in the eye and say, "I've got this." A few of these moments are glorious, red letter days: the first time I ran 5K or the day we paid off our mortgage. Most of them are more modest victories: skillfully navigating through a new city, making lefse, or finally finding a pair of black dress pants that strikes the right balance between professional and alluring. And sometimes an "aha" moment of adulthood is something as ordinary as a pot of soup.
I made this soup recipe from the Kitchn so that I could use some leftover miso paste from seared salmon with miso sauce and also because as I needed move beyond my roasted sweet potato rut. I had modest hopes as I chopped up the sweet potatoes and ginger, but when I uncovered the pot after the soup was done simmering, I knew I had something special. The first thing that hits you is the ginger, but then the other flavors deepen it out: an earthy sweetness, a fermented saltiness, a slightly roasted note. You could ladle this soup into trendy little square bowls, garnish it with a refined sprinkling of herbs, and serve it to your most discerning guests. Or you can have it for dinner on a Saturday night, and when you see your husband's eyes widen in appreciation as he tastes his first spoonful, you can think to yourself, "This adult thing? I've got this."
Adapted from the Kitchn recipe by Faith Durand
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inch by 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 6 tablespoons)
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 7 cups)
- 3 tablespoons white miso
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and tilt to coat evenly. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until ginger is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and miso and cook, stirring constantly, until sweet potatoes are coated with miso. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft, about 25 minutes.
Remove soup from heat and carefully puree in a blender. Return soup to Dutch oven. Whisk in milk and warm over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.