Even gurus get the flu… with a chaser of potato leek soup

It’s tough on gurus when they’re sick.

I wrote a couple of years ago that I had every needed qualification to become a part-time guru (I say “part-time” because the rest of the time I’m retired), what with all my writing work and puzzle creations and research into everything from Nestle’s Toll-House Morsels to chemicals in styrofoam, plus the added bonus of many years occupying and observing this world. People of all ages sometimes arrive at my house, or on top of Mt. Battie (where I sometimes imagine I sit), seeking a new path, or maybe the same old path but with a new angle of view on it, and I’m happy to oblige. With gentleness, a carefully meted-out smile, and a glowing aura that radiates wisdom and goodness.

But it’s different for gurus if they have the flu. Our auras can get muddy, or disappear altogether. And our gentleness may be in scant supply. Recently a young man came by – a college-age kid I gathered – when I was sitting on our porch in the depths of aches, pain, and chills with the various accoutrements of meds, water, teacups (tea, honey and lemon), Kleenex, etc. He seemed like a decent sort, with a five-day beard, baseball cap on backwards, normal early twenties stuff. I encouraged the kid not to get too close as I blew my nose.

The guru porch. Easier to get to than the summit of Mt. Battie.

“Oh, you’re sick.”

“Touch of the flu,” I said. “Not to worry, just keep your distance. What’s going on?”

“Well, they say you’re wicked smaht.”

I smiled a little, and gave a short nod. “What’s on your mind?”

“I’ve heard people say that, well, everything’s connected. Something about everything in a grain of sand, stuff like that, all connected. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“Like… everything?!”

“Mostly,” I said, then corrected myself, ready to ramp up. “No, everything! Deer ticks, plastic BPA bottles, Nestle’s Toll-House morsels, styrene, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, lemon rind, all their electrons blasting their potentiality waves everywhere simultaneously, it’s all in Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, pantheism, dozens of isms meta-this and meta-that and it makes all of us and everything around us holographic and superluminally cross-connected. But deer ticks – maybe not so much. Get it?”

“Wow, that’s a lot to abs–“

“Look, I’m sorry, but I don’t do Pre-K physics, you follow? Excuse my directness – it’s the flu. Influenza virus. Tiny thing, organic but barely. Hydrocarbons, zinging across the universe. What else you got?”

He sat about five feet from me in a chair, and now started to wring his hands.

“I’m — I’m wondering where to turn… So many choices, which path to take.”

“I will think on this now. In silence.”

I closed my eyes to visualize the multiple paths he imagined for himself, and saw the paths, oddly, converging into a long and winding closed-course highway curling through the desert, with me at the wheel of a new Tesla 3 electric car. Beside me is its creator, Elon Musk, who hangs on tight as we careen in utter silence around curves at 120 miles an hour. Thrilling! But when the drive ends, in a spinning cloud of dust, I see that Musk isn’t happy. Nice driving, he says, but we need better performance. He started to question his ability to continue the project, what with all the demands of SpaceX and Solar City and a mission to Mars, and that’s when I jumped in to buck him up a bit. I reminded him of his long list of accomplishments, starting with PayPal, Neuralink, and OpenAI, ending with Falcon Heavy’s launch in February, and ended my pep talk with some words to him that I (inadvertently) spoke aloud.

“See where you’ve been!”

And with that, my reverie concluded and my eyes opened to see the kid with his jaw dropping. He leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head.

“Wow. See where I’ve been…”

I nod, of course.

” It works!! To know where I’m going, I must know where I’ve been!”

“Perhaps for the first time. Explore it, know it. Make it clear, and clarity will inform the future.”

“See where I’ve been — for the first time…”

“Yes, and if you keep repeating the obvious, you’ll own it.” And I blew my nose again, wondering if I’d been too cranky with him. No, he was gently smiling at the landscape, newly aware. I had to add one more kernel of mountaintop mystique –

“You’re you. Even if you don’t know yet what you means. Capeesh?”

I’m not sure when the kid left, for I lapsed back into my vision with Elon (we’re friends now, I call him Elon) as we drive back to our starting point, at a more reasonable but still exhilarating 100 miles an hour. Elon smiles – he will continue with Tesla development until most new car buyers can afford one. We stopped at our starting point, right where our women friends were waiting for us with caviar and flutes of Champagne.

I thought, even with the flu, gurus got chops.

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A wonderfully adequate potato leek soup

But gurudom, fluless or not, is enervating, especially this time of year when the chill of the snowy landscape or ocean air penetrates and disables every last molecule of your usually positive disposition. To the rescue? Hot potato leek soup!  Or more in line with most chefs’ nomenclature, Leek and potato soup. It’s simple and low-tech to make, and when served very hot becomes nearly a meal in itself.

We use leeks from our garden, but since it’s February there aren’t any so we have to buy them. Here’s what you need —

You’ll need ( to serve about 6):
  • 8 large leeks
  • 4 tbsps. butter
  • 4 cups peeled and diced yellow potatoes – about 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 1/2 qts. chicken broth or stock
  • dashes of cayenne, nutmeg, black pepper
Now do these things:

Wash the leeks thoroughly and chop them into discs about a half-inch thick. You can chop into the green leafy section as long as it’s not too fibrous. (When we make it here, the chopped leeks are about half white, half green).

Melt the butter in a dutch oven or deep iron skillet. Add the leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they’re soft. Add the diced potatoes and broth/stock and boil for about 2 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, or until potatoes are soft (note that red or white potatoes will take longer to soften up). Stir frequently to keep the soup from sticking. Add the spices. When it’s cooled down a bit, run it through a blender until it’s silky smooth. Then return to the stove so that it’s quite hot before serving.

Good, hearty food for gurus and everyone else. ‘Til next time —

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.