Tag Archives: roadtrip

LSS: A bowl full of goodness

Having topped 3,000 miles added to the odometer and another 1,400 to go until we reach Lafayette Parish, my family and I have covered some territory on our family vacation. We spent today at the Grand Canyon. I had been once before in 1988. Back then, I made the trip in July also. And back then, it was hot, hot, hot.
While the rest of our group went hiking in the heat, my college roommate, Cathy, and I found shelter in El Tovar, a fancy restaurant we couldn’t afford. It was lovely, and we recognized it as a place we wished we could spend time. So we searched the menu high and low and both decided the only thing we could afford that would suit us was a bowl of French Onion Soup.
On the rim of the Grand Canyon, when it opened in 1905, a man named Fred Harvey ran El Tovar. Beginning in 1876, Harvey began creating the first chain of hotels in America. He hired so-called Harvey Girls to work in his restaurants and hotels that dotted the Southwest. When I was in the ninth grade, I read a book about the Harvey Girls and have been fascinated by them since. When I realized Cathy and I were in a former Harvey Hotel and restaurant, I was thrilled. When our French Onion soup arrived, my happiness level went up another notch or two. The soup was divine.
Even before we went to the Grand Canyon, Cathy and I had long tried to master the art of French Onion soup. And on that day, we found what we considered to be the perfect bowl of soup. While our friends were out hiking and sweating in the heat, we were savoring what we considered to be a culinary masterpiece.
In the 23 years since that day, Cathy and I have had hundreds of conversations about the soup. Could it have possibly been as good as we remembered it to be? How could they have gotten the cheese to melt just so? How could they have made a beef broth that rich?
As happens with relationships that stand the test of time, a certain lore builds around particular moments. Cathy and I have been blessed to share many such moments that stay. But for us, that long-ago bowl of soup ranked right up there. It was akin to something magic that the two of us shared.
The truth is, I wasn’t really looking as forward to the Grand Canyon as I should have been. While I appreciated it to a certain level when I went before, perhaps I was too young and too focused on other things.
Before we went, I did a little research and made reservations for the restaurant that served the fabled French Onion soup. I knew there would be no way the soup could live up to my memory, but I wanted to give it a try for old time’s sake.
When we arrived at the canyon, I realized how wrong I had been not to have fully appreciated the natural wonder so many years ago. The day we spent there was near perfect. It wasn’t hot even though it was July. As we walked up to the rim, young Navajo dancers were performing. I was mesmerized. My youngest daughter and I went on a hike down into the canyon. Afterwards, our whole family sat in rockers and a wooden swing near the canyon rim and chatted with a delightful couple from Oregon.
I wasn’t sure the day could get much better.
Then it came time for our dinner reservations.
We were seated, and I promptly ordered the French Onion soup. My expectations were low.
When the bowl arrived, it looked exactly like the bowl I ordered 23 years ago. I took a picture and sent it to Cathy. Then I took my first bite.
Though I was wrong about my long-ago lack of appreciation for the canyon, I was not wrong about the soup. It almost made me cry it was so delicious. So much flavor in every bite. I could just picture Cathy and me sitting there, so young and naïve, marveling over what was one of the best things we had ever tasted.
A lot of life has happened between those two bowls of soup. I was happy to share it with my husband and daughters. With each bite, I was filled with gratitude for the blessings of family, good friends and good food.