It’s been a bit of a rough weekend. For no particular reason other than – well, OK, the encroaching birthday. Brought to you by the numbers “3” and “8.” In all honesty, it’s not sitting well with me this year. There’s been a lot of introspective, reflective beeswax going on in this house and it ain’t good. Although, as always, I’m determined to find solutions – however offbeat, unconventional, and sometimes totally unorthodox they may be. No one ever gets anywhere by following the herd or being anyone other than themselves. Every time I’ve abided by that philosophy, I’ve exceeded even my own expectations. And so, as I stare down my late thirties and wonder if there’s a chance in hell those loonies who think the world will end in two years might actually be right…well, let’s just say these next 24 months need to catapult me – personally and professionally – to the next level. Maybe two. Or three. Or eight. With all of the death and tragedy I’ve seen in the past five years – and particularly the past few months – I’m no stranger to the fact that our time in this world is not infinite. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in this life of mine, especially during these last five years. But there’s still more to do, more to be.
Lately, the best accompaniment to my feverishly strategizing brain – besides writing – has been food. Or, more specifically, the preparation of food. I’ve found complete zen in kneading dough, chopping vegetables, pureeing berries, zesting lemons. It’s when my brain simultaneously goes into overdrive and autopilot. And it’s AMAZING. So on this lazy Sunday, as the sky wept outside and I wept inside, it seemed only fitting to figure out what would best nourish my body, mind, soul.
Ah-ha! I’ll take homemade soup for the win.
I came across this recipe in college, when I first started dabbling in vegetarianism. The first person I made it for was my grandma – and she LOVED it. She ate two bowls in one sitting. You know you’re really onto something if your grandmother is bowled over by your cooking. And so I’ve made it over and over and over through the years – but for whatever reason, I had yet to tackle it in my new Ballard abode. How have I been back here for 18 months without stirring this pot?!
But all of that changed today. And on a perfect day for this luscious bowl of healthy comfort, I might add – thanks to the gray and the drizzle (and as of right this moment, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING! EEEEEKKK!!!). It should not go without saying that this soup is incredibly easy to prepare – it takes about 15 minutes to chop everything and less than an hour on the stove. You can even adjust the ingredients – maybe add a bit more carrot or celery or cabbage, if that’s your thing. My own personal adaptation of the recipe (below) includes more water than the original, but you might want to pare back on that if you like a really, really thick soup. I’ve also upped the seasoning in my version. Possibly because I’m now old and have a lame tongue.
But let’s not dwell on the b-day. Let’s get on with the good stuff.
Potage a la Bonne Femme
Adapted from The Gradual Vegetarian by Lisa Tracy
6 cups water
4 medium potatoes (I use Yukon Gold….creamy as hell)
1 carrot, sliced (I prefer thicker slices, but feel free to slice thinly or even dice if you want)
1 cup cabbage, shredded or sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, sliced (include the leaves if it’s got ’em)
1/2 teaspoon each of basil, thyme, and/or rosemary (I use the latter two – you can use fresh or dried, but if it’s dried, make sure it’s not more than a year old or you won’t taste a thing. Even better if you can swing it: buy a small amount in the bulk section.)
1 tablespoon butter
8 peppercorns (what can I say – I like it spicy), preferably Tellicherry, which hails from the Malabar Coast of India and has a deep, rich flavor
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (the best salt in the WORLD – I’m SERIOUS. In Seattle, you can find it at Pasta & Co. or Watson Kennedy, which is located on 1st & Spring, as well as in the Microsoft Commons)
Fresh parsley or chives (optional – for garnish)
Put water on to boil. Wash and slice the potatoes and the carrot, both with skins still on. Shred or slice the cabbage; chop the onion, celery, and – if fresh – herbs.
To the boiling water, add potatoes, carrot, onion, butter, peppercorns, and salt. Cook half an hour or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Add cabbage, celery, and herbs, and cook an additional 20 minutes. You should now have a very thick, chunky, aromatic, fabulously droolworthy soup that looks something like this:
Now, you can eat it as is OR – you can do as the French do and puree it just a bit. You can use a blender or food mill, but frankly, it’s a hell of a lot easier with a hand mixer or – even better – an immersion blender. Just buzz through it for 30 seconds or until the texture’s pretty groovy for your taste.
Correct seasoning as needed (this is when I sometimes dash in more Maldon because I’d eat a bowl of mud if it had Maldon on it) and, if you’ve opted for it, sprinkle with the parsley or chives.
You are now well-nourished. So feel better. I know I do. Here’s to the continued mind-mapping of all our plans for world domination – or at least, using our unique gifts to make that world a much, MUCH better place.