The makings of pizza soup

Beauregard and the Legend of Pizza Soup

Soup is like the rainbow. You would think it comes in just a few colors, but if you look hard enough, there are new ones with every glance.

Beauregard was in his bedroom eating a can of soup. That is, the soup from the can. When a knock hit: Rap, rap, rap, and so on. -Who is it? He gurgled between beans and a ham hock. -Your mother. Your long-suffering mother. Are you ready for school? -I’m not half ready. -Well get a quarter ready and we’ll manage the rest on the way there. Do you hear? He did not hear, because, believe it or not, the slurping was far too noisy to hear his long-suffering mother rapping and ranting at the doorway.

Now it should be said, or rather I’m choosing to tell you, that Beauregard was a twig of a 10-year-old. That’s what happens, of course, when all you can manage to eat is soup from a can. Though he liked it just fine. I remember him saying, -Soup is like the rainbow. You would think it comes in just a few colors, but if you look hard enough, there are new ones with every glance. And this was why, never mind the flaky-plump biscuits, fresh from the oven, or the rack of spare ribs sizzling on the grill, he would reach his pale, sinewy arms into the pantry at every meal and retrieve something with beans or ham or perhaps a light chowder if it were sufficiently slurpable.

On this day, which was a Tuesday if you’re interested, he did what most 10-year-olds do not do. He stuffed his mathematics notebook into a JanSport backpack, slung it on his arched back, shoved his feet into a fraying pair of Chuck Taylors, picked up his shallow bowl, and marched down the paisley stairs to the front door, slurping as he went. Out the door he shuffled, his mother scrambling to keep up, until they reached the lately cemented sidewalk shaded by the meatiest of cherry trees. -Come on, mother, we have to get to school, Beauregard said with a splinter of ham stuck between his two front teeth. -Coming, coming, she chirped, eventually making it to his side. And then, the two walked side by side down the sidewalk to a red brick school with single-minded Beauregard loudly sipping the remains of his broth.

Let it be known that our beloved B was no favorite of his classmates. And the same can be said in reverse. A bit of an understatement, I’m afraid. They ridiculed him mercilessly, taunting him with all manner of horribleness. -Slurping Susan! sang Steven as B walked through the saloon-styled front doors of the school. And right behind him, you’d best believe Bruce was at his incorrigible best: -Souphead! Soup head! (I must confess, his were not the pithiest of jibes.) And there were others as he skidded his moccasined feet down the glossy faux-tile hallway toward Mr. Menudo’s room, 701: -Chowder Chump! rang out from one corner (an inaccurate slight, B reflected, as chowder accounted for only 5% of his daily intake of soup). Even one of the teachers, penguin-walking to the library, paused long enough to smile and jest: -Bouillon Beau! Good to see you. How’s the soup today?

He nodded, slurping the last few drops tomatoey broth in reply.

It so happened that that day (Tuesday, if you recall), was pizza day. Oh, what a joy was pizza day! At the 11 o’clock bell, the entire school (teachers included), ran down the slippery hallways, through the squeaky gymnasium, past the one-light principal’s office, over the river (it was more of a stream) until they reached the falling-apart dungeon of a cafeteria with a solitary, saucy lunch lady keeping guard at the door.

-Single file! She squawked without fail, the bouncy pupils shoving their way into some semblance of a queue. You’ll note at this juncture Beauregard was not much there, preferring to spend his lunch hour permutating the numbers in the blacktop boxes that loosely comprised hopscotch. The lunch lady, who unhappily called herself Helen, waited with a stern look until the mess of floppy haired underlings were hushed. And then, the most horrible of things. She said: -I’m afraid there will be no pizza today. Our pizza man did not come.

All fire and brimstone on the pizza man!

You can image the hew and cry. After, of course, a settlement of shock shook through the ranks of students. In pitter and patter, eruption began: -Didn’t come?! -What?! – Did he get lost?! – Why didn’t he come?! -Not fair! -Doesn’t he know about Pizza Tuesdays?! -Can we get pizza elsewhere else?! And no, and so forth. Even stout Helen, with her eyes like thunderbolts, couldn’t shake that mob into quiet. They were incensed.

Slowly (and it must be said, this took 30 minutes at the least), weary, defeated elementary schoolers retreated. They crossed over the river (the stream, that is), back through the echoes of the gymnasium, heads down as they moped past Principal Axelman’s dimly lit office, dragging their heels down the now-scuffed hallways, through the very last doors and out to the blacktop. Where it had begun to rain.

Nevermind the weather, Beauregard was pleased as punch to be crosslegged in front of hopscotch’s #9 pointing in turn at all the boxes and wondering what it might be like to multiply all the numbers you land on as you hop, or perhaps multiply them first, then divide by the last number on which one lands, and if you land on a crack, then you’d have to consider an average of the two, and in that case—

B’s mathematical musings were interrupted by the sad march of young faces into the rain. He eyed them through a sopping mat of hair, wondering why on earth they would be retreating to the rain when pizza called not a stream away.

But he didn’t really have to ask. Samuel, the small one with shifty eyes and a pile of blond hair, stared him down in a fit of pique. -There is no pizza, he ground through clenched teeth. How dare they leave us no pizza! How dare they… and he trundled off, half-mad, pizza-less, frothing, sopping, sad.

Now this is the fine point when I tell you something that to this point would not have mattered one pepperoni were it not for the peculiar pickle facing Elmsdale Elementary. You see, it so happened that in former years, the dear mother of our hero B (who you will recall walked him to school beneath the cherry trees, as she will do again tomorrow) was once employed as a substitute lunch lady when Helen was sick or otherwise sick and tired of the business of lunch. And in those occasional occurrences, B would sometimes hide from his malicious peers with his mother, between the fryer and the pizza oven. Bored and wont to make a game of his circumstances, he eventually found his way into the locked cupboard with all the fixin’s his mother used to concoct the meal of the day. (Well, it isn’t fair to give him credit for finding a way past a lock. No, no, he simply pilfered the key from his mother’s purse.)

With such a trove of ingredients, he set about preparing his very own soups. Why he made soup with cabbage and rice and green beans and mushrooms. He swirled in peas and cheese, and odd-shaped lettuce leaves. He even tossed in an olive or two! He simmered and sipped, adjusted and seasoned. Until he had perfected another fine soup.

His classmates were never the wiser. Until this harrowing day, they had their pizza, their burgers, their mac and their cheese. Their jello and cake and candy and pop. It was all glee for the gang — while Beauregard stirred in the background.

Now here he was, slick wet in the rain, his mind simmering with thoughts of a kind. What if, what if he supposed — what if he could save the day with a soup? A pizza soup.

Oh, yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. I thought it myself. Disgusting. Impossible. Quite unlike the doughy delight we’ve all come to love. But soup-savant Beauregard would not be deterred by such silly detractors. He stood, determined, and marched through the doors, down the hallways, past 701, beyond Axelman’s cave, jumped the ropes in the gym, hopped over the river (a stream, really), and shoved open the doors to Helen’s domain. She sat there, alone, somewhat sad, unsure. B was intrepid, summoned up the strength, and said: -Helen, this pizza business. It’s a disaster. But I may be able to fix it.

Helen was skeptical at the very best (you can imagine), raised her left eyebrow, then her right, squinted at B, shuffled in her seat, and cocked her big head. -How? B didn’t hesitate (there was no time to spare). -Well, there’s no time to explain, is there? You’ll have to trust me. I need your keys. And right so, of course, Helen scoffed, choked, laughed a little. -Trust you? Give you my keys? You’re madder than a rabid farm kitten. (She had many sayings like this that most other people never used, which made one wonder where she was raised, but nevermind that at the moment.) -Trust me, said Beauregard, and looked into her cracking gray eyes. Pupils locked, they stared. For 30 seconds, at the least.

Until Helen, quite defeated and who actually cared very little for the outcome of this madness, shrugged and unclipped the keys from her belt. B grinned a knowing grin, then rushed to the kitchen where he unlocked the cabinet and eyed the supplies. Yes, yes, he thought, he could do this. Would do this. It would work.

-Helen! he called from the recesses. -Tell the students to come back in 20 minutes for their pizza. He heard nothing in reply, assumed she would oblige. She was in it now. Committed. What was there to lose? It was all on B.

In a flurry of can opening (B was a master, could do it with one hand, sometimes behind his back), chopping, mixing, stirring, sipping, seasoning, the kitchen was abuzz with the smells and sounds of a feast in the making. But what? What on earth could he be doing? Mad, mad B — what got into you?

The minutes ticked by and the smells wafted higher, stronger, out the doors, across the stream, into the gymnasium, down the hall, to the very edge of the school itself. And by god, it took but a few confused whiffs of those deprived sad sacks on the blacktop to realize: Pizza. They smelled pizza! But how? Where did it come from? Who had saved the day?

Curious and ravenous they ambled in a trickly train down the hallways, past the— well you know, at this point. They made their way to the door of the cafeteria where Helen stood guard. She sat upright. -Single file! She barked. The drooly-mouth rabble obeyed. Behind her, whizzing between pot and pan, cabinet and fridge, Beauregard bellowed: 1 more minute, then let them in!

You would know if you’ve ever been told to wait for pizza: That minute was interminable. The smells were intoxicating! A mingling of salty-unctuous pepperoni was it? And herbaceous, tomatoey goodness. And cheese, cheese, cheese. What was the cheese? By all the gods, cheese.

Tick-tock. Tock-tock. Tick.

And then…

-Let them in! B cried, the pride palpable in his 10-year-old timber. Unsure of what to expect, Helen released the crowds and they poured in. Salivating. Impossibly impatient. Ravenous.

What they saw you’d never imagine from the likes of a soup-o-while nobody. There, in pristine rows, where bowl after bowl of pizza soup. Not just any soup — oh no, no. How dare you think so! Ingenious little B had retrieved bread rolls from their forlorn corner of the kitchen, hollowed them out. Sprinkled the insides with cheese, toasted them to a bubbly golden brown. And in them he ladled the unctuous ambrosia of tomatoey decadence: a simmered amalgam of diced beefsteaks and Roma sauce with onions and garlic and (what was that?) black-as-night olives and roasted red peppers and seas of dried herbs with an “h.” Oh, and it — crispy cubes of ham and salami, and perhaps an interloping coterie of roast beef (nevermind how that got there). Atop it all (the piece de resistance) a blanket of more cheese-cheese-cheese. Mozzarella and strands of Parmesan, brilliantly bubbling, glistening, grand.

Now, I’ll admit to you, this looked very little like pizza – a fact not missed by the Elmsdale hordes. But B was so deeply sure of his masterful creation, he pulled Steven from the crowds and said: -Try this. If it doesn’t satisfy your cravings for pizza, then I give you permission to make fun of me every day for the rest of our lives. If you like it, then swear never to make fun of me again.

Steven cocked his head, curious. Much like Helen only 20 minutes before. His eyes grew narrow, sizing up this waif of a Beauregard. What was there to lose? he thought ultimately. How could goop in a bread bowl ever be as good as pizza? Psshht.

-Alright, he agreed, confidently, raising a smirk.

B handed him a spoon. The crowd looked on, agape. Steven lowered his head, dug into the cheesy cap of that delightful saucy something, pulled out a mess of tomato and olive and salami and mozzarella and probably some roast beef (it was hard to tell). He blew on it gently then lifted it to his mouth. Necks craned, eyes bulged, tongues licked at the corner of lips. All waited with breath, bated. The room went dead-man silent.

Pause. Smack. Slurp. A bit of chew. Eyes closed. Steven straightened, eyed B dead on. You could hear Bruce heaving and ho’ing.

-I’ll be damned, he said. That might be better than pizza. You don’t even have to eat the crust!

Oh by all the soups in all the world, you can only imagine what happened next! Just imagine! Poor B was swarmed — hungry mouths begging for this miraculous pizza soup. He went swiftly to work, funneling this viscous delight into crispy brown bowls, layering with gobs of cheese and cheese and some cheese.

B smiled to himself as he served bowl after bowl. -You’ve done it, Souphead, he laughed to himself. You and your soup have won the day.


You’d think it the end, that lot. Wouldn’t you? That slurp fest and gorging gathering, not missing a pie at all. And it might have been — save for one last detail.

You see, as B was shuffling through his permutations at home later that evening, flipping a pencil between his middle and index fingers at the kitchen table, his mother intruded with a victory grin. -What soup would you like for dinner tonight? she asked, nodding to the victor.

Well, he thought, simmering in a moment of silence. Well. What soup crowns the day? What grandest of stews, what princeliest of chowders? What baron of bouillon indeed?

But with a flourish of his hand, he waved them all away

-No soup, he proclaimed. -Let’s get pizza instead.

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Mushrooms in a forest


In the dirge it tucks, it likes it there, quiet like the skeletons that crown

For a blink of an I
Paved road winding through a forest

For a blink of an I

Let us not think too much little of us

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