Ruth Asawa and noodle soup

Ruth Asawa made volumes without mass through her woven sculptures made of iron, copper, or brass. She was born almost into the Great Depression, was uprooted through the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and, after discriminatory practices prevented her from completing her credentials as an art teacher, became a student at Black Mountain College.

There she studied with Joseph Albers, met Albert Lanier with whom she would later have six children, and began her career as an artist. Asawa is often pictured working on or interacting with her pieces (including in this stunning image by Imogen Cunningham). Her creations remind me of organic versions of geometric surfaces. They seem at once intensely crafted and natural.

A bowl is almost a volume without mass, especially a good one, fit for noodle soup. We started eating noodle soup when the weather got cold and I started complaining that our shallow pasta bowls challenged the appropriate broth ratio. 

On Atlantic Avenue there are a few blocks of shops destined to break the bank. Almost everything is well made from places with sustainable working conditions, which usually also means a pause worthy price tag. I have often pestered my parents about wanting their "wedding china"–Italian ceramics with subtle blue flowers and a comforting weight–but the bowls by Mud Australia were even more beautiful and begging to be filled. They were also dangerously fragile and far too costly. 

Then there was a sale.

Someone has probably written a thorough study of the impact of sales on the human mind. No matter how expensive something might be, once it goes on sale it seems like an irresistible good deal.

This noodle soup is different every time, but our favorite version so far is topped with a poached egg. Without the egg, the soup is vegan, but I'm afraid it's the best part.

Ruth Asawa braved the Northeastern winter to try a soup that had strayed far from its Japanese origins. I couldn't help but watch her hands as she ate and think about the many strands of thread and wood and wire that they had shaped. Growing up around San Francisco, I hadn't known that Asawa was the creator of the Andrea Mermaid Fountain in Ghiradelli square. I have distinct memories of dancing as a child near there and afterward worrying that while spinning I had accidentally displayed my underwear. Hearing this story, Ruth Asawa was very understanding and I could tell she was an excellent teacher.

When there was nothing left to eat in our bowls we drank our broth, returning them to their massless states.