Last Saturday, Jon and I took a long drive around the north east end of the island. There is a gorgeous retreat center just past Hana, and I was on a scouting mission for a possible retreat I’ll be hosting next Fall.
It was the perfect excuse to grab our cameras and just take a meandering drive around the beauty of this island and take a much needed break from work. The unfortunate part of this was that poor Jon wasn’t feeling well, and it was a heaviness that seemed to grow as the day progressed.
Driving the road to Hana is a gorgeous, long and at times exhausting drive. By the time we got home, he was only up for popping a couple of Advils and falling flat into bed. It was only 6PM.
We hadn’t eaten anything since the early lunch we had road side, so padded into the kitchen to see what we had. Having not planned to make dinner that evening, I began looking around for ideas that were quick and easy to make, as he was hungry and I soon would be as well.
As I began grabbing ingredients from the pantry, the refrigerator and our counter, I could hear that low soft snore that comes from a deeply resting body, and I smiled to myself. He wouldn’t be waking up any time soon from his nap, if at all that night. This slowed me down considerably, and all I really wanted to make was a soup. A collection of homey, comforting and nutritious ingredients in a thick broth that felt like a soft blanket enfolding a weary body.
Soups are so good at making us feel that way. What is that about?
As a cook, what I love is the layering that happens when making a soup. Maybe it appeals to the collage artist in me… I’m not sure. Without much plan or thought, I began… one layer at a time.
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced and sauteed in extra virgin olive oil while I washed a halved leek and began to chiffonade the while and some of the green part. Into the sauteed garlic that went, along with a hearty pinch of sea salt. I probably use garlic way too much in my food. I love it deeply and as it started to slightly change color I added 5 cups of vegetable broth and 4 cups of water.
As that warmed, I peeled what I thought was a yam form our CSA box, but turned out to be a purple sweet potato, and then cut it into cubes and placed that in the now hot broth. The surprise was a pleasant one as the bright color peaked through as it was peeled. The difference in flavor didn’t worry me. I can’t imagine you can ever really go wrong with soup.
I waited for that to come to a boil, and turned to look through the refrigerator for herbs. I pulled out some oregano, sage, cilantro and rosemary. An unlikely combination, but I took a pinch of each and then finely chopped them and set them aside. As the soup came to a boil, I poured in 1 cup of red lentils, another heart pinch of sea salt and a super tiny pinch of pepper.
When it began to boil again, I added the chopped herbs, lowered the heat and covered the pot. Each layer left in the heat to come together in a wondrously complex and savory manner.
By this point the snoring was a nice and steady hum. Tucker was up there adding to the sleepy sounds, and I knew I would be eating alone that evening. I ladled it into a bowl, gave it a little bundle of shredded mozzarela cheese and a generous drizzle of some seriously good organic extra virgin olive oil. It was truly amazing. The house was dimly lit, the wind was blowing outside, and I had a gorgeous bowl of soup to end my day with. My own body and soul getting a chance to replenish and soothe.
The following day, in the middle of our early morning work, we got a phone call baring bad news. It seemed the heaviness Jon was carrying around yesterday, continued in another form for us on this day. So for lunch, I warmed up the left over soup and served us both a bowl. In a situation, where there wasn’t much I could do to make it better, this bowl of soup, felt like… care. It was specifically about saying to his soul, ‘here, take some love and nourishment for your journey.’
I think all food prepared lovingly does this, but soup seems to do it like nothing else.
I honestly always thought that he reason why soup makes us feel so nurtured and cared for is because it's so close to baby food–so close to those first flavors, smells, and textures we experienced as babies when food had to be spooned lovingly into our little mouths.
I'm so sorry to hear though, that Jon and you have received some troubling news this early in the new year.
Sending loads of love and light your way–and can't wait to hear more about your future retreat!
Wow! I had never thought of this, but perhaps there is truth in this… those first foods were so much like soup.
Soup is so nourishing to our bodies, minds and spirits. I love making soup with a hearty broth and simple ingredients. It always tastes so much better than a canned soup ever could. Oh, and purple sweet potatoes are awesome in soups and curries. Give it a shot. I have an awesome vegan curry recipe I make using Patak's mild curry paste (found almost anywhere on the island).
I am so sorry that there is such distressing news entering your lives, but I do hope that you are both able to make it through whatever trials come your way with your heads held high.
Amanda, Thank you for you well wishes. Jon's grandmother passed. And although it wasn't unexpected, it was… you know? We are good… moving through it.
Elena, I love how you set the mood for creating a beautiful soup. It’s true about the beauty of layering ingredients and subtle flavors with the heartiness of legumes and root veggies. I love how a leek can flavor a soup. Something as simple as leeks, potatoes and vegetable broth simmer into a simply elegant comforting delight. Hope everything is alright.
Marilyn! Yes! I'm so in love with leeks. We got quite a bit in our last CSA box and really, I just want to make more soup with it. I think that nothing in food so obviously reveals itself as a dance between you and flavors and alchemy then a soup…
I love it for how it makes the house smell. Walked into Sunshine Cafe one day and asked what that delightful smell was. When informed it was carrot yam soup I was asked if I would like some. I replied, "No way, I'm gonna go home and make it so MY house smells like this!" Fortunately the cafe is in the health food market so I was able to grab all the fresh, organic ingredients to support such an endeavor. (Google Sunshine Cafe if you're ever in Morro Bay – hey, that rhymes, which feels good like soup because it reminds me of raising those babies. : )
Yes, you're right… there is something about soup that is just oh-sooo comforting. I love making soup. It's funny how you can add all kinds of things and each time come up with an entirely different kind of soup. Yours sounds yummy… extra garlic and all.