Yellow split pea and freekeh soup

Yellow splt pea and a freekeh soup

Yellow splt pea and a freekeh soup

“After the second day’s march Pierre, having examined his feet by the campfire, thought it would be impossible to walk on them; but when everybody got up he went along, limping, and, when he had warmed up, walked without feeling the pain, though at night his feet were more terrible to look at than before. However, he did not look at them now, but thought of other things.” (Is she still going on about Pierre Bezukhov? She is!) The other day I spoke about Platon Karataev, a relatively minor yet remarkably important character in War and Peace. And today I should talk about something completely different. But I don’t want to, because Mama, this has been on my mind: this whole passage, but this sentence in particular. This sentence about the sorry state of Pierre’s feet. He “thought of other things.” I love this testament to the power of the human mind, the power of thoughts and hopes and imagination. I’ve always said that a person should be able to sit in traffic and not wish the time away, because of the wealth of thoughts in their own head. I fully recognize the difference between the boredom of traffic and the terror of war. I hope never to be tested the way Pierre was. But I love to think about our imaginations and all of the worlds we create in our minds as something that we take with us everywhere we go, something that is uniquely ours and can’t be taken away from us, something that makes us free despite the privations of our physical state. “And now during these last three weeks of the march he had learned still another new, consolatory truth—that nothing in this world is terrible. He had learned that as there is no condition in which man can be happy and entirely free, so there is no condition in which he need be unhappy and lack freedom. He learned that suffering and freedom have their limits and that those limits are very near together…He did not see and did not hear how they shot the prisoners who lagged behind, though more than a hundred perished in that way. He did not think of Karataev who grew weaker every day and evidently would soon have to share that fate. Still less did Pierre think about himself. The harder his position became and the more terrible the future, the more independent of that position in which he found himself were the joyful and comforting thoughts, memories, and imaginings that came to him.” Or as Camus wrote, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Freekeh! Why, it’s delicious! And so good for you, too! This was a light but hearty soup. Yellow split peas and freekeh both have a mysteriously appealing flavor, and they combine well here. I seasoned this with ginger, lemon, rosemary, basil and a touch of cardamom. I added potatoes and spinach, because I seem to be putting them in everything lately. I do love them! And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Here’s Bob Marley with Dancing Shoes. It’s a beauty!

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Chickpea and farro soup with spinach and tomatoes

Chickpea and farro soup with spinach and tomatoes

Chickpea and farro soup with spinach and tomatoes

When I was studying film in college, I would make short, strange films. When it came time to show them to the class, I’d stand in back giggling at all of the jokes in my film, looking forward to the beautiful, carefully planned shots. And everybody else would sit and watch with perplexed looks on their faces. The whole thing would end with awkward silence or confused questions. Yeah. And now…now! I may have mentioned that I’m writing a novel! I’m completely obsessed with it! I’m infatuated with my own novel. I lie awake all night writing it in my head. I read passages from it over and over! I scribble ideas for scenes or whole scenes in my notebook, and hours later I can’t read them, because my handwriting is so atrocious! I have ideas while I’m walking Isaac to school, and I can’t remember them by the time I get home! I love my characters, and I want them to go through all of the things they need to go through, but I’m not sure what those things will turn out to be! I know some of the things though, and I can’t wait to write them down, I can’t wait to get through all of the stuff that has to happen first, although I like all of those scenes, too! I want it all to come out at once in a big rush. But the truth is I write quite slowly, in fits and starts, and agonize over every word. And I have massive doubts that the whole thing won’t make sense to anybody else in the world, and if anybody else reads it it will be greeted by perplexed silence and confused questions. But that’s okay, because right now it feels so good to be working on it. I’m building something. I’m working on something big, I’m working on something good, and I might lie awake all night with people running through my head, but it’s worth it. Right now it feels worth it. So today’s Sunday Interactive playlist is songs about people working on something. Not a job of work for a wage, but something big, something good, something they believe in, even if they seem a little crazy. It could be a building, a song, something mysterious, a career, a love, anything!

And today’s recipe is simple but delicious. It’s soup! Because it’s still cold and snowy here, and starting to seem like it always will be! This soup is hearty with farro and potatoes, but bright with tomato and lemon and rosemary. If you have fresh basil, that’s nice with it. If not a dollop of pesto is nice, or some grated mozzarella.

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist. Add whatever song you like, or leave a title in the comments and I’ll add it for you through the week.

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Pigeon pea soup with pearled couscous and collards

Pigeon pea soup with pearled couscous and collards

Pigeon pea soup with pearled couscous and collards

“Nothing makes one so vain as being told that one is a sinner.” – Oscar Wilde

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” – Mark Twain

“Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” Martin Luther

“This shalbe the synneplage of Egipte and the synneplage of all people.” – the Bible

“The Sin-score was settled with St. Kentigern in the regular way.” – R. Soutey

“The farther this foul sine-spring flows It still more mud die and more filthie grows.” – J. Sylvester

“To err is human – but it feels divine.” – Mae West

“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves, we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution.” – Oscar Wilde

Birds cry warning from a hidden branch
Carving out a future with a gun and an axe
I’m way beyond the gavel and the laws of man
Still living in the palm of the grace of your hand
The worlds not easy the blind man said
Turns on nothing but money and dread
Dogs been scratching at the door all nite
Long neck birds flying out of the moon light

I’m gonna take the sins of my father
I’m gonna take the sins of my mother
I”m gonna take the sins of my brother
Down to the pond – Tom Waits

Oh Sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Sinnerman, where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day
Well I run to the rock, please hide me
I run to the rock,please hide me
I run to the rock, please hide me, Lord
All on that day
But the rock cried out, I can’t hide you
The rock cried out, I can’t hide you
The rock cried out, I ain’t gonna hide you guy
All on that day – Nina Simone

He set my sinful soul on fire
He made me laugh and he made me cry
Glory, hallelu

Whoa!
Yeah, glory how happy I am – Gary Davis

Hieronymus_Bosch-_The_Seven_Deadly_Sins_and_the_Four_Last_Things

Today’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of SIN. Add a song yourself or leave a title in the comments and I’ll try to remember to add it through the week.

This soup was very tasty and hearty! It has cumin, cinnamon, ginger and lemon so it’s a nice bright spicy flavor. It feels good on your throat if you have a cold. In contrast, we have the pleasant earthiness of pigeon peas, potatoes, pearled whole wheat couscous and collard greens. It’s good, and good for you, too!

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist

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French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon and spinach

French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon

French lentil and butter bean soup with tarragon

Reverend Gary Davis was born in Laurens, South Carolina in 1896. He was born partially blind, and became fully blind as an infant. He was the only one of eight children to survive to adulthood. His father was killed when he was ten, his mother didn’t treat him well, so he went to live with his grandmother. He taught himself guitar, and invented a way of playing with many voices at once. In the twenties and thirties he was active in the Piedmont blues scene, and made some recordings. He became a Baptist minister. He moved to New York City in the forties, and performed as a street musician for a while before being rediscovered during the folk revival and becoming very popular with lots of rock stars of the day. All of these are facts straight from the wikipedia, but what the wikipedia can’t tell you is that his music is phenomenal. Such a perfect combination of exquisite technical skill and deeply sweet soulfulness. Such a perfect balance of heavy darkness, which we recognize as part of everybody’s life, and of the hope and humor that make it bearable. Such strange poetry to describe feelings that we all have. I’m flabbergasted (to use one of Malcolm’s vocabulary words) by his music, and by the fact that I haven’t discovered him earlier. I must have heard a song here or there, but I couldn’t have been paying attention, because I wasn’t stopped in my tracks and incapable of doing anything but listening, as I have been all week, steeped in his music.

I’m so obsessed with Reverend Gary Davis at the moment that I wanted to make this Sunday interactive playlist all about him. But we obviously need a bit of diversity, so I decided to pick something that he’d fit into nicely. As well as many chilling and beautiful songs about death, sin, and the afterlife, he’s got some beauties about life and love. And he has quite a few versions of Candyman. This being valentine’s day weekend, I decided that was the direction to take. So this week’s Sunday interactive playlist is on the subject of sweets. Of course songs about candy are never really about candy, are they?

This soup was perfect for a winter’s night. Flavorful but simple. Hearty but brothy and bright, and with the springlike greenness of tarragon. Not at all hard to make.

Here’s a link to your interactive playlist. Add what you like, or leave a comment and I’ll add it through the week.

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Bright stew (with tiny potatoes, white beans, castelvetrano olives and meyer lemon) and 3-wheat medley (with farro, bulgur, and freekah)

potato, olive, white bean and meyer lemon stew

potato, olive, white bean and meyer lemon stew

It’s a winter storm! It has a name, and I think it’s Janus, which is fitting, I suppose, this being January. Janus was the god of beginnings and change, of gates, doors, passages, journeys, endings, and time, the future and the past. But sitting here, looking out upon snow upon snow upon snow, I don’t feel inspired to start anything new, to embark on any journeys, to open any doors, be they real or metaphorical, and let the icy winds blow into my home. More arctic cold is predicted for the rest of the week. That’s right, it’s winter and we’re experiencing wintery weather. And everybody is talking about it, which is fine by me because I heartily approve of talking about the weather, I think it’s a weighty and important subject. But I also believe that if people have a problem with this weather, it’s because they made the wrong choice in being human. Obviously, they should have been dormice. I’m dormouse-obsessed at the moment. I saw a picture of a hibernating dormouse in Isaac’s magazine, and I’m completely enamored. Listen to this wisdom. They sleep all of winter and a good part of fall and spring. They don’t scurry around hoarding food, they just eat it! And get (relatively) plump! And then they curl up and sleep very soundly for months. Plus, they’re arboreal. They’re mice who live in trees. They have extravagant whiskers. They have bright dark eyes. They eat hazelnuts and berries. I want to eat hazelnuts and berries! They have little hands and feet and fluffy tails. They sleep so soundly that people can pick them up and record the sound of them snoring, which is apparently a thing that people do…


(look at his little hands and feet tremble!)


This is a juvenile dormouse in a torpid state.

If it’s snowing where you are, or raining, or the least bit cold, you should probably just stay inside and watch these BBC dormouse videos.

Or you could make this nice bright stew. It has tiny potatoes, but you could use larger potatoes and cut them up. It has small white beans, and white wine, and rosemary, thyme and sage. It has spinach and castelvetrano olives, and the juice of a meyer lemon. It’s nice in winter, because it’s savory and satisfying, but vivid and green and juicy as well. It would be nice in spring or summer with fresh new potatoes and baby spinach. I served it over a medley of wheat grains…bulgur, farro, and freekah. I thought they were nice together because they each have a different texture. We had some goat cheese caper toasts, too, which I might tell you about another time.

Your song for today is this whistling dormouse.

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Roasted butternut and tomato soup with butter beans

Roasted butternut and butterbean soup

Roasted butternut and butterbean soup

I’ve said again and again that I don’t accept society’s definition of success. I’ve gone on and on explaining that I don’t always value what we’re supposed to value. I like to try to maintain my own definition of what makes a person successful and therefore happy, of what is worth working for. But let’s face it, sometimes it all comes crashing down around you, sometimes it’s just too much effort to think the happy thoughts that keep you aloft and the pixie dust wears off. And then you feel discouraged. I’m sure it happens to everyone, it comes and it goes. But discouragement is of no interest to anyone, so I’ll give you this instead.
dancing dogs
It’s dancing dogs! It’s from 200 BC! It’s from Jalisco, which is in Mexico! It makes me so happy that somebody took the time to make this. It’s so beautiful and joyful and perfect in every way. You can see the original at the Princeton University Art Museum, which is a wonderful place. And today’s Sunday interactive playlist is an easy one. It’s dancing songs, songs about dancing or songs that make you feel like dancing. It will help us all get through these dull grey January days.

And here’s a roasty juicy soup with nice plump butter beans in it and a good dollop of pesto on top. Not hard to make and very tasty. The boys ate it with pasta, as a sort of sauce.

Here’s a link to your interactive play list. Add what you like or leave a comment and I’ll try to remember to add it for you.
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Sunshine pink soup

Sunshine pink soup

Sunshine pink soup

It’s the second anniversary of The Ordinary!! Huzzah huzzah!! Flips and possets and toddies for all my friends! It’s a dark, pouring-down-rain day, and I sit here contemplating The Ordinary and the world at large. Everything feels a little chaotic and out of control, with government shutdowns and debt ceilings and changing climates and wars and near-wars everywhere you look. I’m still reading Zola’s Germinal (I know, I know, I’m slow). Striking miners are banding together, thousands of them, frantic and desperate after months of hunger and deprivation, they’re storming across the countryside, they’re destroying machinery. They’re shouting, “Bread, bread, we want bread!” They don’t want much: they want a home of their own to keep clean and warm; they want enough food to eat; they want some special days of celebration, with fancier meals and more beer; they want to be paid a fair amount for the work that they do; they want some sense of safety and security. They’re not shutting everything down to keep people from something essential, something they need, like access to a doctor when they’re sick. (Oh, how I’d love to have health insurance!) They’re not acting out of pettiness and spite to hurt people who don’t have much, they’re acting out of need, to ask for just enough. It’s a very Ordinary theme. We’d like to write demands for a new Bon Vivantery. Rules whereby every person can live well; not extravagantly, not lazily, but assured of enough. Assured of a chance to be healthy, a chance to know what’s really happening in the world around them and farther afield, a chance to work at what they love, a chance to have food and ideas and energy and materials to create something good every day, and to work towards something better as each day goes by, a chance to feel really alive, to glow amidst the pouring-down-rain and deluge of confusion and nonsense all around us.

Isaac named this sunshine pink soup. And he really loved it! He ate several helpings. In reality, it’s all of the vegetables left from the farm at the end of the week, roasted together and pureed till smooth. The vegetables were very autumnal, winter squash, sweet potatoes and beets, so the soup has a sweet, warm flavor and color. I added ginger, rosemary and lime, for some contrasting bite and zing. I made some nice soft rolls to go with it, and that was that!!

Here’s Art Blakey’s Moanin, live and full of style, grace, beauty and joy.

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Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

Black bean soup with grilled mushrooms and red peppers

I have a shocking admission to make…I’ve never read On the Road! Terrible, I know! But now I’ve seen a movie version, so I feel that I can speak about the book with complete authority. It is, of course, the story of young men traveling about (on a road) seeking hipness, wildness, and adventures to write about. In the film, at least, I didn’t really love these guys. They seemed self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, self-aggrandizing, and humorless. The poor dears were trying so hard to be crazy-cool that they wound up slogging through a heavy luke-warm slurry of their own invention. But I haven’t read the book. In keeping with my Andre Bazinian belief that it’s best for a critic to write about films that they like, I’ll stop talking about On the Road, and tell you instead about something wonderful we discovered because of On the Road. In one scene in the movie (and apparently in the book as well) the boys happen upon a performance of musician Slim Gaillard. Well! David looked him up, and he’s remarkable. He was genuinely hip, wild, and funny, and he not only had more than his share of adventures to write about, he invented his own language with which to write about them! The details of his biography are a bit fuzzy, but he was born in Florida or Cuba, on or around 1916. His father was Greek and his mother was Cuban. He grew up in Cuba cutting sugar cane and picking bananas, maybe. His father, who was a ship’s steward, took him on a tour of the world, but accidentally left him in Crete when he was twelve years old. He eventually moved to Detroit and worked in an abattoir, or at Ford, or as a mortician, or all three. He spoke 8 languages, as well as Vout, his own language, for which he wrote a dictionary. I’m just getting to know his music, but his songs are crazy-wonderful. Lively, contagious, thoughtful, and with a poetry all their own. Yep Roc Heresy, which sounds like nonsense lyrics, is actually a recitation of the names of middle-eastern food, and he does this with food from other nationalities as well. Others, which sound like nonsense syllables are in Vout. And listen to this, Travelin’ Blues, a perfect story with a hot dreamy background. I think Tom Waits heard this! What a discovery! How did I not know about this artist until I was 44 years old? Sigh, if only I’d read On the Road when I was a youngster, like I was supposed to…

We grilled up a lot of mushrooms and red peppers the other night. And it’s been so nice and cool lately, that my thoughts turned to soup. I combined the grilled vegetables with black beans, herbs and a little smoked paprika, and made a smooth, tasty soup. Very easy, very quick. If you don’t have leftover grilled vegetables, you could easily roast the mushrooms and peppers in the oven. I marinated the mushrooms in a little balsamic and herbs, but all of those things are in the soup as well. One of the drawbacks to black bean soup, to me, has always been that it’s a little dull in color. I added a small amount of olive oil steeped with annato seeds, and it brightened the whole thing up.

Here’s a link to some of Slim Gaillard’s music.

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Leek, potato & butterbean stew

Leek, potato and butterbean stew

Leek, potato and butterbean stew

    “His little treat, when he was nice and clean…was to leave his chest bare for a while. His pale skin, as white as that of an anaemic girl, was covered in tattoo marks scraped and scored by the coal, “cuttings,” as the miners call them; and he displayed them proudly, flexing his strong arms and broad chest, which gleamed like blue-veined marble. In summer, all the miners sat out on their doorsteps like this. Despite the day’s wet weather, he even went outside for a moment, to exchange ribald remarks with another bare-chested neighbor, on the other side of the gardens. Other men came out too. And the children, who had been playing on the pavements, looked up, and laughed with pleasure at the sight of all this tired flesh released from work and at last allowed to breathe in some fresh air.”

I’ve been reading Germinal by Emile Zola. I’ve never read anything by him before, and I’m so happy to have discovered him. It’s like Dickens with more sweat and pee and nakedness. Germinal is the tale of French miners in the late 19th century. They work more than five hundred meters below the earth, in cramped, dangerous, miserably hot, miserably cold, horribly dark and dangerously coal-dusty conditions for less than a living wage. They live crowded together into a cramped two-room house where they have no privacy and little peace. Their cupboards are literally bare, and their breakfast is hot water poured over yesterday’s coffee grounds. They’re all tired and anaemic and tubercular. And yet they’re very much alive, and full of humor and affection and desire. The story of their day-to-day life, the work the men and children do in the mines, the work the women do in their homes, is told in detail so rich and gripping you’ll find yourself hanging on every word, waiting impatiently to see what happens next. All of the characters are described with such warmth and generosity that I feel I’d like to know them, though I’d have trouble justifying the comfort in which I live, in which I expect to live.

Potato, tomato and leek stew

Potato, tomato and leek stew

When La Maheuse finally manages to beg and plead for some supplies, she makes a soup of potatoes, leeks and sorrel. We just got some leeks and potatoes from the farm! So, of course, I had to try to make a French coal miner’s stew. I added herbs and butterbeans and wine and red peppers tomatoes. I don’t have sorrel, so I used lemon juice to attain that lemony flavor. I thought it turned out very tasty! I made a big round loaf of bread to go with it, but you could always just buy a baguette.

Here’s Driver 8 by REM, because the passage I quoted above reminds me of the line, “The children look up all they see are sky blue bells ringing.”

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Summer stew with white beans, potatoes, crispy eggplant and basil-pistachio pesto

Summer stew with white beans, potatoes and tomatoes

Summer stew with white beans, potatoes and tomatoes

This morning Malcolm and I went out for a long walk on the tow path. He told me about a dream he’d had. The water turned to air and the air turned to water. So the fish swam in air below us, and we walked through water as though we were flying. There were strange creatures in the water that we moved through: tadpoles with teeth, ducks with oddly shaped wings, lizards with tongues longer than their bodies that lived on our backs and were our friends. In this new world we walked though forests of “wimping trees,” that had fallen over, swooning, and were easy for us to climb. The water rose up into space, but an evil wizard had rented out all of space, so there was no space for rent, no space for rent. As we walked it became less the memory of a dream and more the telling of a story. We saw a clicking kingfisher and a bright swooping gold finch. I was hazy from sleep and felt that I might be moving through water, rippling with Malcolm’s words of a world turned upside down. The trees and bushes had bright flashes of crimson and pale gold, which seems too early but is not unwelcome.

So today’s interactive playlist is on the subject of dreams. Songs about dreams, or songs that that just seem dreamy. Add them to the list yourself, or leave a comment and I’ll try to remember to add them through the week.

Basil pistachio pesto

Basil pistachio pesto

This is my favorite kind of meal! Something saucy and flavorful made from potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs fresh from the farm, with a big loaf of crusty bread to mop up the sauces. I served olives, grated mozzarella, pesto and crispy eggplant on the side, to add as you like. I used french-lentil cooking broth, but you could use a simple vegetable broth or even water, and it would still have nice flavor.

Here’s a link to the dreamy interactive playlist.
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