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  • Writer's pictureAmari Dawn Pollard

Pepper Pot Soup for the Soul

Like most days, I rose from my bed on Sunday with the expectation that nothing spectacular would happen within the hours I spent awake. And for the most part, nothing spectacular did happen. I made my bed, cleaned my apartment while listening to podcasts, and spoke with a friend on the phone. It was how I liked to spend my Sundays, in the quietness of my apartment, putting the physical pieces of my life in order while mentally preparing for the week ahead. 

But then, while I was on the phone I received an odd text from a friend breaking the news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter accident. I read the message over and over again, thinking she must have typed the wrong name, before turning to Google in search of evidence. I was ill prepared for how heavy the news of his death would make me feel, and its impact only intensified when it was confirmed that his 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the accident. I had spent most of my week saddened by how dejected I felt about the future; how I couldn’t manage to feel hopeful about relationships and job prospects and all the things to come. I’m only 24-years-old, and yet, I constantly express that I’m so tired, like I’ve been on this earth for an exceptionally long time. When I sink into that type of mood, it’s not that I want things to stop because I know what that would mean, but I want them to slow down. I just want to sleep for a while. But, as death and the randomness of life have a habit of doing, things were quickly brought into perspective. And while I was still sad, my sadness took on the sadness of so many others before transforming itself into gratitude. I was simply grateful, for my breath, for my life, for my family, for my friends, and for being able to have another Sunday. 

Earlier in the week, I had decided I would attempt to cook Pepper Pot Soup from Jamaican Cookery on Sunday. I had heard of Pepper Pot Soup, but it wasn’t something I had grown up on. What some may find surprising is the fact that Jamaicans love soup; we love it on cold days when the sun can’t seem to find its way from behind grey clouds and we love it on warm days when our skin seems to melt beneath the afternoon heat. Since leaving home, my mom’s soup repertoire has expanded, but growing up she almost exclusively filled us with cock soup. One can pretty much put anything in cock soup, from chicken to potatoes to dumplings, but it’s called that because of the Grace Cock Flavoured Soup Mix people use when making it. The special Caribbean packet is supposed to add flavor and body to any chicken, shrimp or beef soup. Next to French onion and clam chowder, it was my favorite soup growing up, mainly because of the way the chicken and dumplings would absorb all the flavors. Whenever I’m feeling anxious or melancholy, a bowl of hot soup manages to comfort me. So, on this particular Sunday, Pepper Pot Soup felt like the right choice. 

Considering its name and ingredients, I imagined Pepper Pot Soup to be hot. Despite adding all the spices and a whole chili pepper to the pot, the soup still wasn’t hot enough. So, I decided to ramp it up with some Sriracha and jerk seasoning (which makes everything taste better), and that proved to be the right decision. It brought a nice kick to the soup and let the spices linger in the back of my throat for a little longer. After pouring myself a bowl, I brought it with me to my couch where I covered myself with a blanket and sipped each spoonful. It didn’t comfort me in the way I was hoping it would, but that’s okay. Just knowing I could make it and had the ability to eat it was satisfying enough. 

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