So, a week or so ago I decided to stick my neck out and enter a writing “contest” on one of my favorite blogs about writing, Chuck Wendig’s “Terribleminds.”
I put “contest” in quotations because the prize is pretty much just having your story being called Chuck’s favorite, plus some freebees related to the things he writes.
Some time ago, I’d already written a drabble (that’s the word for a story that is precisely 100 words). This contest called for keeping it under 100 words. Awesome, I thought. Perfect. I’ve got just the thing.
Thing is, blinded by my enthusiasm, I up and posted my story in the comments of his blog post (as instructed) – but failed to notice where in the instructions for the contest Mr. Wendig also specifically requests that the stories be no longer than three sentences.
My story is more like, I don’t know, more like nine sentences.
So I got my story up there right away – it’s the second submission among some 159 as of right now as I’m writing this – and its failure to adhere to the contest’s rules is extra obvious to, I don’t know, other writers who actually know how to read instructions. Also, the TITLE of the blog post is Challenge: Scary Story In Three Sentences (emphasis mine).
Here's some good news. You, dear reader, are the beneficiary of this DOUBLE FAIL of mine – I say DOUBLE because the story is a solid loser as far as the contest is concerned (I didn’t play by the rules) AND because I can no longer submit the story for publication anywhere which publishes only previously unpublished works (which, by the way, IS EVERYWHERE, as far as I can tell), since it is posted publicly on Wendig’s blog.
The only good thing about this is, thankfully, that I am now free to publish the story, right here right now, on my blog for the enjoyment of all three of you who were lucky enough to find it.
Here’s the story (The Soup Eaters).
Thrifty No-Packet Ramen Soup
A few weeks back, I was sick. I wanted soup.
Normally I like making my meals from scratch. When I’m sick, however, I gravitate toward pre-packaged, processed, no-fuss favorites I grew up with – boxed soups whose two main ingredients are dried-up, inch-long noodles (always too few) and a mysterious, highlighter-yellow, “chicken”-flavored powder.
We didn't have any of that in our pantry, so I was forced to improvise.
Below is the recipe I came up with. And, if I do say so myself, it’s a keeper. Frankly, it’s one I wish I would have had on hand back when I was on food stamps. The ingredients are cheap, the recipe is simple, and results are as flavorful as any Asian soup I've ever had in a restaurant.
This might look like a long list of ingredients, but more than half of what’s listed is optional. Leave out whatever you don’t have or don’t like, and I'll wager this will still come out a satisfying soup.
Here’s what you’ll need (serves 1):
2 ounces Ramen-style noodles (I use Ty Ling Naturals Chinese Noodles, but any dried, ramen-style will do. Just toss out the spice packet.)
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (Can be left out for vegetarians, though it really is, in my opinion, an essential ingredient. Sub in more soy sauce if you leave it out.)
3 Fat cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
1 Heaping teaspoon finely minced ginger (I use the stuff that comes in a jar and has the consistency of applesauce.)
1 or 2 Whole dry red chili peppers, to taste (Optional)
2 Scallions, chopped (Optional)
1 Squirt of Sriracha, to taste (Optional)
Small bunch chopped cilantro (Optional)
1 Cup vegetables (Optional – just about anything – frozen, fresh, or leftover – will do as long as it’s not already seasoned in a way that will clash with the soup’s seasoning.)
Juice of 1/4 lime (Optional)
1. In a pot, bring 3 cups of stock or water to a gentle boil. Add the soy and fish sauces, garlic, ginger, and scallions (and the chili peppers, if using). Let the broth simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the garlic has softened and the fishy smell from the fish sauce has dissipated. If you’re using any uncooked root vegetables, like carrots or radishes, or vegetables with tough stems, like broccoli or cauliflower, now is when you toss those in. (For a heartier soup, I’ll sometimes add a few cubes of extra-firm tofu or pre-cooked meatballs from the freezer.)
2. Add the noodles to the boiling pot. If you’re using more delicate vegetables, like de-stemmed leafy greens or anything pre-cooked, toss them in (I used leftover broccoli rabe in the bowl in the picture). Boil for 3 minutes or until noodles are just a bit more al dente than you want.
3. If using, add cilantro, lime juice, and Sriracha. Stir. Taste the soup and add another splash of soy sauce if you think it needs it.
4. Ladle the soup into a big bowl and enjoy!
Let me know if you try it! Let me know if you like it! Let me know if you hate it!
Most of the things I've written online are related to my day job. So here's where I'll post about books I read and music I listen to and thoughts I think and probably divulge some tidbits related to the novel I'm writing.