In January 2011 my partner of nine years and I were just finishing up dinner, a chipotle chicken chowder adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. It's a soup I had made many times before because I loved its spice, smoky flavor, and creaminess. On a cold winter's night like that one, it was like an extended hug in a bowl.
As I scraped the last remnants of the dish, we started talking about our relationship. I was thinking ahead to what we could do for Valentine's Day — possibly a getaway to a romantic bed and breakfast nearby?
My ex had a different idea: "I've been thinking about things and ... it's over."
Without any kind of discussion, almost a decade of togetherness was kaput. It was a monumental blindside. And, like in all breakups, it wasn't just the person I lost in the breakup — there was our house, our cats, and our friends. With small-town breakups, people are often forced to pick sides and some friends I had had forever disappeared.
It was a hard year.
The Sacrificial Soup
Another casualty? I gave up on that soup — for six years. Even though I survived the horrible year, fell in love again, learned to trust, and found new friends and a brighter life, I couldn't eat that soup again. It was such a vivid reminder of a very dark time. For me, the soup was entwined with heartbreak.
It quite literally languished in a bin in my office. You see, my ex had printed off a copy of the recipe for me after our breakup — either as a conciliatory gesture or as something much less generous, I'm not sure. Every once in a while, I would look at it and wonder if I should toss it in the trash. But for some reason, I didn't.
Reclaiming My "Breakup Soup"
Then, a few days before the anniversary of our split (a whole six years later), I dusted off the recipe and decided to make it. Just like that. I wanted to reclaim it and to close another chapter of that awful year.
It was just soup, I told myself, although I felt hesitant as I chopped up the potatoes and chipotle peppers. What if this provoked feelings of anxiety that had long been hibernating? I kept at it, sautéing the onions, adding the chicken stock, simmering all the ingredients together, and then finally pouring in some whipping cream and chopped cilantro to finish.
When my boyfriend, Brian, asked me what I was cooking, I told him the story of what I had been calling "breakup soup." When I was finished, I said, "You'll have to promise me one thing: You can't break up with me before, during, or anytime immediately after we eat it. For real." He laughed and agreed. No split would be forthcoming post-slurp.
I ladled the soup into the bowl as my partner watched and inhaled: "Wow! It smells incredible!" he said. My boyfriend marveled at the flavors until the last spoonfuls were gone.
As for my experience? After just one taste, the good memories came back: the warm feeling it left in my stomach, the spicy kick it imparted as it slid over my tongue. Heavenly! Finally, this was just soup again — delicious and fulfilling.
Get the recipe: Chipotle Chicken Chowder from We Heart Food
Do you have a breakup soup, too? Share your story in the comments.