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October 1, 2022

Window on the World Column | The Soup Diaries

They were the best of friends from a very young age. Though quite different — my sister was very bossy and her friend very sweet and accommodating — they were the ying to each other’s yang. I’m sure sister frequently got a good telling off in later life, once her friend tired of her ways, or had to make it abundantly clear that it was not and never always all about Rosie; but they were tied at the hip, the two of them — metaphorically speaking — since the last decade and a half they didn’t even live in the same country.

But, as with many friendships that have some longevity behind them and thanks to the glory of modern technology, they stayed as the very best of bestest friends through to the end of Rosie’s life. And because she was Rosie’s very good friend, she was constantly at our house, growing up, and we were all her friends too — in fact my parents were more like her second set of parentals, since she often had her feet under our table and up in our family room.

Moons ago — the late 1980s, to be precise — the girls were coincidentally living in London flats that they had bought very close to one another. There were three of them in fact — all big grownup girls with jobs and flats, living in lovely proximity to each another in North London.

They all had pretty highbrow jobs — sister was a teacher in an inner-city school for unruly children, for example. One of her friends worked in banking, the other in hotel sales and catering. They were always busy going to and from work or recovering after difficult days at work.

Food was another constant source of conversation in all their lives — and wine, lots of wine. Oh, and in those days, cigarettes. Most days there would be supper at one or the other’s apartment. “I fancy a big hearty soup!” (This was likely the postscript to a rather heavy alcohol binge the previous evening.) Or my sister squawking for morning cheese (“Primula,” a rather nasty English processed cheese, was a firm favorite for tackling a hangover). Near daily, the girls would construct the dinner menu between them — it often became quite luxurious and complicated for special occasions like Valentine’s Day.

The other constant was their search for the perfect man — and that is where the dialogue gets quite crude and very funny, reminiscent of the “Sex in the City” banter of the same era. One of the girls — who shall remain nameless — was involved with a married man. One was always going out for “drinks” with possible suitors, and my sister, bless her, was obsessed with the Turkish man she met on her holiday in Turkey. It set the stage for a rather good story.

If you add this to the dawning of the internet in everyone’s every day and easy-peasy communication transmissions (“Where was my morning email?”), this is really a period piece of the highest caliber. Why am I telling you all this, you might be wondering? Well, my sister actually printed out pages of emails between the three gals over a period of a few short months and they had been waiting for one of them to type it up and get it all in one place, well before she passed.

She had even started the manuscript herself — one line only for the beginning of the book: “This is the story of three girls, typical Londoners, working, obsessing about life, love, men ….”

The girls had hoped that another of their friends — a good writer in her own right and a sometime participant in the Diaries — would find the time to get it together. Sister even had the movie stars picked out for who would play who in the film version. There would be Natalie Portman (her), Nicole Kidman and Andi McDowell. Also, Cate Blanchette, who pops in and out, and Brad Pitt, who would be playing their lovely gay friend. It was a project that I simply couldn’t turn down. An opportunity to hear my sister’s voice again and laugh at her sharp wit? Oh yes, I can do that. I can’t promise my work will be turned into a movie, but I can at least get it published.

“The Soup Diaries” were retrieved from where they had been parked, gathering dust in the U.K., and returned in a large package to my home in the U.S. The pages were all higgledy-piggledy when I started sorting through them, which made me giggle (my sister was a great project starter but would generally get bored before she got too deeply into things). But I did notice a few notes in her handwriting and the odd direction inserted for the future movie producer that made me howl.

After WhatsApp chats with her bestie, it was determined that their real names would not be used — to protect the innocent, naturally — and that the chosen movie star names would be inserted in their place. She also did not want any photographs in the manuscript. We determined that “The Soup Diaries” would be best illustrated by the recipes used in the script, and there Rosie’s bestie was given her tasks to reproduce the recipes, since she was the major foodie and chef among them. The book was taking shape and we were both super excited about it.

The Diaries date from November 1999 to April 2000, and I have nearly finished typing them up. Then it will be time to find the appropriate images to accompany the recipes and a suitable cover. I plan on having “The Soup Diaries” ready for purchase by the Christmas buying season, so you can all plan on putting it on your wish list.

“Are you sure you are okay doing this?” my sister’s bestie asks me — to which I reply it is both a pleasure and an honor to complete this task that sister wanted done and to have her help doing it. I’ll let y’all know when the eagle lands and the final version of “The Soup Diaries” is ready.

“Dearest,
Well, the handcuffs and slices of chocolate goo may well do the trick. What more could the man want, the perfect combo, sex and chocolate all rolled into one! Yum, have told all how wonderful last night’s dinner was with you guys, even down to the heart-shaped biscuits. No one else — even with loved ones — seemed to have half the fun we had. No doubt Nic will be ringing you with serving suggestions for chocolate, cake and cuffs through the day …”

Lucy Jensen
Soledad Columnist
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