By Agnes Krup / bio

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on an old chaise lounge, covered in beautiful, faded velvet. Bruckner's violin concerto was playing on the stereo, and I was deeply engrossed in my read (Daniel Mendelsohn's "Lost") — not too engrossed, however, to look out of the window to my right occasionally.

It was dark already, the end of a gorgeous early spring day in Paris. Across the street or, rather, place, from the apartment that my generous friend Anja had lent me for the week, I could just make out the massive shape of neo-gothic Sainte-Clotilde, situated in the center of the beautiful, history-laden seventh arrondissement.

From Anja's third-floor walkup, my views were of the upper parts of the apsis, the pointed arches of the narrow windows and the strong flying buttresses. Across the place, to the right, the small supermarché on rue Père Casimir prepared for closing. It was almost eight o'clock, getting close to dinner time — Paris dinner time.

From the kitchen I could hear the distinct noise of a knife coming down on a cutting board. It was a rather irregular, infrequent thud; not the way it would sound if I were in my kitchen back in Brooklyn, chopping away at onions or carrots. In this kitchen in Paris was my 8-year-old daughter, inventing a soup.

One of the more difficult realizations of my life has been that my daughter is A Very Picky Eater. When was growing up, we had to eat whatever was put on the table. The philosophy behind that came as much out of respect for the food as out of the war-time experience of my grandparents and parents, especially my mother, who had been a young child in Hamburg, Germany, during World War II: You never let any food go to waste.

But I also remember that I didn't mind so much. I liked most of the food we ate. It is true that poached cod with mustard sauce, a staple in our house, could be a challenge, just like the thick soups my mother served, based on yellow peas or lentils. Over the years, I liked fried liver with applesauce and sautéed onions, disliked it, then liked it again, and the same was true for creamed spinach with boiled potatoes and eggs-over-easy.

But short of Toast Hawaii (with pineapples slices from a can and individually wrapped slices of Kraft's cheese, the dernier cri in the late '60s in Germany) I was kind of OK with everything, and since that particular dish was only served to my parents' hip, grown-up friends, I was fairly safe.

And I loved my grandmother's dishes: vinegary stews of beef and kidney with small dumplings and soaked dry fruit; thin flounders, fried after they had been tossed in flour; string beans simmered with pears and thick slabs of smoked bacon; crisp leaves of butterhead lettuce with a sweet dressing of lemon, yogurt, sugar and lots of dill (the greens from our own garden).

Not so my daughter. Plain pasta (the shapes to be debated) makes her happy. She is "allergic" to potatoes, anything citrus, berries, yoghurt, lamb, most fish, certainly shrimp and other seafood, and all kinds of leafy greens. Not to mention most other things.

I want to yell and shake her. The two of us have different meals almost every night, with me using every single pot in our house and every available burner on the stove top as well as the oven. I'll be darned if I eat boring steamed broccoli. She, however, eats it every day of her life — the florets only, mind you, while I end up munching on the stems. I have even learned to work those into sandwiches for my lunch at work. Like my family's previous generations, I just can't bear to let good food go to waste.

My daughter also eats string beans, but only when they are coated with a bit of olive oil (not butter!). She eats apples, cut right on the spot into quarters, before they have the slightest chance to turn brown, skin on, core out, very firm and tart, but they must be pinkish in color, not too red, not too green.

Tomato sauce over pasta is fine once a week (if I only knew which day). So are bananas, but only on Sunday mornings, cut into thick slices and served with homemade waffles.

She eats rice and roasted chicken and steak and takes a raw carrot and a celery stick and a couple of slices of very firm salami to school every morning. She only drinks water, warm milk and tea (a mix of peppermint and green tea for breakfast, oolong or Earl Grey in the afternoon, lemon verbena at bedtime). She does not touch fruit juices or sodas.

Her vices are chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bars (but only one particular brand) and a couple of standard cake recipes that we bake almost every weekend.

My daughter's favorite dish, however, is homemade chicken noodle soup. I make it about twice a month, following our regular Sunday night dinner of a roasted chicken of which we manage to eat only half. I save the second leg and half of the breast and make a rich broth of the carcass and the leftover stuffing — onion, carrots, celery, apple or dried apricots, marjoram or rosemary or fennel seeds, all of which I discard after the broth is done. Some of the liquid I freeze as is (for risotto; we both like rice), but most of it I divide into portions to freeze with the leftover meat.

Defrosted, with freshly chopped onion, diced carrots and celery and some pre-cooked elbow pasta (or any other pasta of that size), it makes a delicious soup. The key is to only put in the vegetables for a couple of minutes, so that they are still crunchy. Canned chicken soup, I am happy to say, doesn't make the cut anymore at with my daughter.

When we arrived in Paris, my daughter unpacked the small suitcase she had prepared for the week. She pulled out her kitchen apron and announced that she would invent a soup. Clearly, she had been inspired by one of her favorite movies, "Ratatouille," in which a newly created soup recipe plays a central role (as does Paris).

Sizing up on her endeavor, I had steered her toward the local butcher on rue de Bourgogne early in our stay and suggested we'd have roast chicken for dinner that night. I had simmered the carcass down to a broth and cubed the saved breast and thigh meat.

Moreover, we had spent 20 minutes this afternoon with the friendly and patient Algerian clerk in the produce store, debating the greens to put into the broth — because, after all, the soup was to be invented, not just copied. My daughter had settled on beautiful thin haricots verts and some flat-leaf parsley.

So there she was in the kitchen, chopping away, if intermittently. I stayed away as long as I could, enjoying my book, my music and the view. But when the shutters finally rattled down over the doors of our small supermarché, I couldn't resist anymore. I tiptoed into the kitchen, on the pretense of getting myself a glass of wine.

My daughter was in her apron, which sports a hand-stitched dwarf on skies on the front pocket — an apron she has long outgrown and that I had been given at birth by friends of my parents. She was kneeling on a bar stool she had moved over to the kitchen counter, hovering over the wooden board with a mid-sized knife that she had gotten from the butcher's block. Surrounding the cutting board were small serving dishes filled with meticulously chopped small cubes of carrots and celery and half-inch-long pieces of the haricots verts.

Where had she gotten this? How did she know about prepping dishes and preparing vegetables? It took me minutes to realize that this was what we do at home every night. It is what keeps us sane and healthy, and we take deep pleasure in the meals we prepare.

That night in Paris, I asked if I could help — "No!" — and then I asked how long it would be until dinner: "Mami, you know a good meal takes time!"

She was right, and we were on vacation. I discretely set the table and retreated to my place on the chaise lounge. I thought about my own mother. When I was 9, perhaps 10 years old, she had let me bake the family's favorite chocolate pound cake by myself (which is now my daughter's favorite cake, the one she demanded I make for her 8th birthday). My mother just left me alone in the kitchen with the ingredients, the measuring cups, the electric mixer and the stove.

We didn't have a dishwasher, and the deal was that I had to clean up after I was done. I don't know how many of the dishes my mother secretly washed for a second time and how many splatterings of chocolate dough she wiped off the backsplash and the countertop after the cake was in the oven. But I remember how proud I was of myself.

I set the table with nice bowls, napkins, candles and glasses, and I spared my daughter the dishwashing part; after all, she is only 8. We had a lovely soup, even though my child decided that flat-leaf parsley had been a mistake in her invention. It is a leafy green after all, sort of.

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