most intensely involved I've ever been with soup was when I wrote a
play called Dragon Soup & Other Intense Sensations. It was produced
in a local restaurant which served the same menu to
the audience as was being prepared in the play itself. Staged all over
the restaurant, sometimes the action could only be seen through the
large wall mirrors. For the kitchen scenes, we pulled a prep table
onto the postage stamp clearing we used for a stage.
waiters station doubled as the green room for the six weeks that the
play ran. We found that to put the production mess of lights and props
on top of a restaurant's normal mess was too much for everyone, but
we learned to cope. After casting, the director decided to write cabaret
music for the production, then went around giving singing lessons.
I played a character named Blanche, a plant at one of the front tables,
who cooed rather than talked when the waiter presented the menu to
her. By the end, few of the staff members of the restaurant were speaking
to the cast of the play except for those who were sleeping together.
Nonetheless, the play ran for weeks and had over a hundred people on
the waiting list when it closed.
play was based on the restaurant where I'd started as kitchen help
and ended up as dinner chef. (It wasn't that hard, battles are often
pitched in restaurant kitchens, then whoever is left standing gets promoted.
writing the play, I was surprised at how much the character of the
CHEF was a purified form of the real life luncheon chef at Lafayette's,
a woman I'll call Rocky. But just as the five poisons become the five
wisdoms when perfected, so Chef is a sort of perfected Rocky.
Here's how the soup in Dragon Soup comes about:
Dragon Soup ACT I, Scene 2
LUNCH IS OVER. THE WAITER'S STATION AND DINING ROOM HAVE BEEN REMOVED
AND THE KITCHEN IS IN FULL VIEW. A LARGE SCREEN MARKED "KITCHEN CLOSED" IN
SERVING PORT TO BAR/DINING ROOM SEPARATES AREAS.
LIGHTING IS VERY DIM. KITCHEN HAS THE AIR OF AN ANIMAL'S DEN, BROWN AND
FURRY, YELLOW AND DARK LIKE AN UNDERGROUND CAVERN WHERE PERHAPS PRIMITIVE
RITUALS ARE ENACTED. A FEW CANDLES BURN HERE AND THERE.
THE CHEF, VERY DARK, PERHAPS BROWN OR BLACK, IS A HUGE WOMAN, MORE OF
A FORCE OF NATURE THAN A HUMAN BEING. INSTEAD OF A CHEF'S HAT, SHE WEARS
AN ODD ASSORTMENT OF LEATHER STRAPS HUNG WITH VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS, SOME
OF WHICH ARE NOT READILY IDENTIFIABLE. ODD THINGS HANG FROM THE CHEF
HERE AND THERE. PERHAPS A STRING OF SAUSAGES OR A ROPE OF GARLIC ARE
AROUND HER NECK. ONE WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED TO SEE A LIVE SNAKE.
DURING THE COURSE OF THE PLAY, THE CHEF TAKES VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS OFF
HER APRON TO WORK ON THE FOOD WITH. THESE INTERACTIONS ABSORB HER ATTENTION
COMPLETELY. SHE GOES FROM DIRTY TO FILTHY-
SHE IS AS LIKELY TO OPEN THE REFRIGERATOR AND DIP HER HANDS INTO THE
COLD BABBA GANNUJ AND SLAP HER FACE AND NECK WITH IT TO COOL OFF AS SHE
IS TO GO TO THE WATER TAP. SHE SENSES NO BOUNDARIES BETWEEN CONTAINER
AND THE CONTAINED. A TRUE PRIMITIVE, SHE DOES NOT SEPARATE THE WORLD
FROM HER PROJECTIONS. SHE ALONE CAN SEE THE DRAGON.
CHEF: Better get to work on the soup. (PASSING BY SPICES SHE POINTS FINGER
ACCUSINGLY) Don't you talk back to me. Had enough of you I have. . .You
Juniper Berries. Perk up there, got things for you to do tonight. Big
Now you, you pretty mushrooms. What you in the mood for pretty thing?
Marjoram or Oregano? So white and round. Well, you sit by him awhile
and see what you think. (CHEF FLAPS HER APRON, STRIKING QUICKLY AT SPICE
JAR TO HER LEFT) You stay out of this, 'Prika, what you know?
CHEF TAKES DOWN GIANT SOUP POT. MAKES PASSES OVER IT OF A VAGUELY MAGICAL
NATURE. SHE TURNS ON A CASSETTE RECORDER (AFRICAN DRUMS OR PERHAPS RAVEL'S
BOLERO) FROM TIME TO TIME SHE HITS POT WITH A WOODEN SPOON OR BREAKS
INTO A DANCE, BOUNCING HEAVILY AS IF WAIST DEEP IN THICK SOUP.
CHEF: DUM DE DE DUM DE DE . (DANCES) DUM DE DE DUM DE DE
SOUP soup gonna make some soup. Dum de de DUM de de. ETC.
(SHE DANCES ALL OVER THE KITCHEN, LEAPING LIKE A HYPOTTAMOS BALLERINA.
THE CHEF IS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY PRESENT AS SHE DANCES. SHE SPINS AND
STOMPS OUT OF THE DANCE, GOING HOO, HOO, HOO)
(CALLS) Dragon. Hey Dragon. Dragooooooonnnnnn.
(CROSSES TO BROOM CLOSET, THROWS OPEN DOOR. DRAGON SITTING ON STOOL WRITING,
HE PAYS NO ATTENTION TO HER) Dragon. (WAITS RESPECTFULLY) HEY, DRAGON.
DRAGON: (STILL WRITING) Um?
CHEF: Dragon. Needs your help. You busy?
DRAGON: (COMING OUT OF CLOSET) Just working on a poem. What's up?
CHEF: Needs to get the Chef's Special.
DRAGON: Ah, the Chef's Special. (SNIFFING; CHEF TOO BEGINS TO SNIFF .)
What sort of day is it?
CHEF: (SNIFFING) Well, (SNIFFS) sort of. . .(SNIFF, SNIFF) kinda. . .(SNIFFS)
Know what I mean?
DRAGON: (SNIFFS) A spicey sort of day.
CHEF: Yeah, ginger spicey.
DRAGON: Many surprises.
CHEF: Oh, boy. Loves surprises.
DRAGON: (AS IF HE'S LOOKING INTO THE DAY) Hmmmmmmmmm.
CHEF: What's you mean `Hmmmmmmmm.'
DRAGON: Just Hmm. Great spectrum of surprises.
CHEF: (TO HERSELF) Spec Trum.
DRAGON: Reminds me a little of the day I came through.(SNIFFS DEEPLY)
Yes, indeed. (BEAT) The day I came through and couldn't get back.
CHEF: (WHO LOVES TO HEAR THE DRAGON TALK) That the day of the big earthquake?
DRAGON: The very same. I'd only come in for dinner that night.
CHEF: How's the food?
DRAGON: Oh! Even then it was worth traveling for.
CHEF: (VERY CHILDLIKE, SHE'S HEARD THIS STORY MANY TIMES) Yeah? What'd
DRAGON: We started with Winter Melon Soup.
CHEF: We? (THE CHEF'S FAVORITE PART IS ABOUT THE DRAGON, THE OTHER DRAGON,
THE ONE WHO GOT LOST)
DRAGON: (SADLY) My Dragon and I.
DRAGON: Yeah. (TURNS STOICAL) Then BANG. Everything changed.
CHEF: BANG! Loves to happen.
DRAGON: Winter Melon Soup all over everywhere, plaster falling, then
the fire. . . smoke and confusion.
CHEF: Yeah? And?
DRAGON: When it was all over, I was alone and the coordinate point sealed
off—no more traveling betweendimensions. Can't get back at all. (SHAKES
HEAD) Now there's a broom closet where the entry point used to be. Don't
know if she made it or not.
CHEF: Your dragon?
DRAGON: For years I thought maybe she just went into shock, forgot who
she was. Dragons do that. They enter the dream, as we call it, take on
the disguise of a person in that dimension. But sometimes they forget
they are dragon's. Oh, other people like to have them around, of course.
They're real helpful and all. But they don't always like it. . . (DRAGON
IS LOST IN REVERIE, PERHAPS THINKING ABOUT HIS OWN TRUE DRAGON MATE WHOM
HE CAN'T FIND.) I always thought that one day she'd come to herself,
then find me here.
CHEF: Don't you still 'bleve that?
DRAGON: Forget who she was for over 50 years?
CHEF: Well, sometimes stuff is hard to remember. . .
DRAGON: Not send messages through the wind? Not thump out so much as
on the earth?
CHEF: (ALMOST TO HERSELF) Look in the fire, look in the fire and water,
look in the soup. (PICKS THIS UP AS A CHANT WHICH SHE REPEATS AT ODD
MOMENTS TO HERSELF, ALMOST LIKE A MANTRA) Look in the fire, look in the
water. Look in the soup.
DRAGON: (OFF ON HIS OWN MEMORY TRIP) Now I think she got back. She probably
assumed I was right behind her. And now she can't get through either.
CHEF: Sort of on the other side of the door scratching to get in?
DRAGON: (GIVING CHEF SIDEWAYS LOOK) I wouldn't have put it exactly like
CHEF: What if she's round here and you don't recognize her?
DRAGON: Well, it's true Dragons are masters of disguise. (BEAT) But we're
also masters of uncovering disguises. No. She couldn't fool me. (FONDLY)
Not for long.
CHEF: Ain't you used to it here yet?
DRAGON: They can't see me, that's the trouble.
CHEF: Hmphh. They can't see nothing.
DRAGON: Lost in the dream. If only they'd spend more time on what's important.
CHEF: Yeah, like food.
DRAGON: Exactly! They can evolve through their senses. . .
CHEF: (WHO'S HEARD ALL OF THIS MANY TIMES AND THINKS HE'S GOTTEN TO THE
BORING PART) What's today's soup?
CHEF: Yeah, the soup for the Chef's Special.
DRAGON: Ah, yes, the soup. (BEGINS TO INTONE)
CHEF: That's today's soup?
DRAGON: Wait. (INTONES AGAIN) O Great Chefs of France, speak through
me. (BANGS POTS AND PANS) O mighty cauldrons, bubble for me. (MAKING
STYLILIZED GESTURES) Deep pleasures, dark pleasures. .
CHEF: 'Bout that soup.
DRAGON: (PICKS UP GINGER) Subtle spices of the East, give me guile. .
CHEF: Look in fire, look in water. Gotta cook some soup.
DRAGON: Ah. For the soup. (LISTENS, SEEMS TO HEAR BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS, PERHAPS
THE FRUITS THEMSELVES SINGING THEIR SONG OF SURRENDER) Take fruits, heavy
on the vine, swollen by the sun into ruby globes.
CHEF: (WRITING RECIPE DOWN ON CARD) Them's ripe tomatoes. Calls 'em fruit.
Don't never 'frigerate.
DRAGON: Minced root of the golden flower, plucked young from the Dragon's
garden. To clear the mind, to shock the senses beyond the limits of the
body, into the clarity of the void.
CHEF: Guess that's ginger root.
DRAGON: That amber liquid, that transformed aura of the plump fowl, prepared
by the light of the East.
CHEF: (FLIPS THROUGH FILE BOX, TAKES OUT CARD AND READS ALOUD)
Chinese chicken stock. OK. Got that.
DRAGON: The spring offering of green, grown long and thin, reaching out
of the soil, gently biting to the tongue as a lover with tiny pointy
teeth. . .
DRAGON: (WHO HAD NOT QUITE FINISHED, COUGHS POLITELY) Hem.
DRAGON: As a lover with tiny, pointy teeth might naughtily bite. Brought
to their fullest potential in the high, hot world to the South, amid
CHEF: (IMPRESSED) Done up with salsa. (TAKES CARD FROM FILE BOX)
OK. That it?
DRAGON: (LISTENING) If you wish, you might add the flesh from the wolves
of the sea.
CHEF: Shark? Yeah, that'd be GOOD. Angel or Thresher?
DRAGON: Either or neither. Such things are optional.
(ENTER WAITER, BRUSHING DRAGON ASIDE)
WAITER: Chef. Chef.
DRAGON: Oh, Bother. Humans! And I was just getting started. Hmph.
(DRAGON GOES BACK INTO CLOSET)
WAITER: Got to get the Chef's Special for the menu. What's all this?
CHEF: That's gonna be soup.
WAITER: (PENCIL POISED) Name?
WAITER: Name of the soup.
CHEF: Name of the soup. Uh. Didn't give me no name.
CHEF: Um, nothing. The name. . uh. . .it's. . .uh.
WAITER: Jeez. Not again. (SIGH) Maybe I can help. Salsa? Ginger root?
Chinese Chicken Stock? How about UNESCO Surprise?
(CHEF NODS ENTHUSIASTICALLY UNTIL SHE REALIZES THAT THE WAITER, A FRENCH
SNOB AT HEART, IS BEING SARCASTIC. DRAGON APPEARS BRIEFLY FROM CLOSET)
DRAGON: Crab meat might be even better.
CHEF: (CALLING) Dragon. . .(SEES LOOK ON WAITER'S FACE AND FINISHES)
CHEF: Dragon Soup. That's the name of the soup. The Chef's Special for
WAITER: Is that so?
CHEF: Yes, write it down just like that: Dragon Soup.
WAITER: Tell me, Cheffie. is it made from dragon meat? The customers
will ask you know.
CHEF: No, course it ain't. Dragon give me the recipe.
WAITER: Of course he did, darling. Of course he did.
In the end of the play, it turns out that the chef is the dragon's mate.
Once he recognizes her own true nature as well as his own, they are able
to return to their own dimension.
1/4 cup butter.
Duxelle the above, that is, cook until they are dark and intense. This
may take up to an hour over low heat.Mix into:
8 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
1 t fines herbs or mixed Provencal herbs & black pepper.
beef tenderloin in a mixture (equal parts)of ground ginger and dry
mustard dissolved in Worstershire sauce.
Cover beef with bay leaves. Wrap with bacon.
Leave overnight or several hours.
Small new potatoes may be placed in pan to soak up juices.
in a moderate oven until meat thermometer registers RARE.
cups rich chicken stock
2 T minced ginger root
6 T minced scallions
8 tomatoes, skinned, seeded & chopped.
Saute scallions, then ginger
in a little oil, add with tomatoes to broth. Simmer 20 minutes.
Just before serving, poach cubes of fresh shark or
other firm fish in soup.
warm crab may be placed in bowls & covered with hot soup instead.
ripe pears in white wine, flavor with cinnamon
and cloves and crystalized ginger.
Layer pears and slices of French chocolate
cake in small
individual dishes, using cooking liquid from pears.
Raisins and nuts may be added.
be topped with chocolate sauce.
head of romaine
1 cold, cooked potato
2 t fresh basil
Combine above and garnish
with boiled egg slices,
tomato wedges, black olives.
Dress with olive oil & lemon
Sprinkle with pine nuts.