French lentil and wild rice soup

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The other day Isaac wrote some sentences. It was for school. Usually he hates writing sentences, he hems and haws and procrastinates and eventually scrawls out a few lines with little thought for legibility or the rules of spelling. But on this occasion he took his time, he enjoyed himself. He told us what he was writing about, he looked pleased, he looked happy. He read us his favorite sentence a few times, “The children were babbling like mad to hear their voices echoing off the canyon walls.” I love this! I love to see him happy with his words, happy with something he’s created. And I love the sentence itself. Sometimes it seems like we’re all children babbling like mad to hear our voices echoing off the canyon walls. We’re all talking and talking, and posting things all over the place, everything we feel and think and notice, everything that annoys us or makes us feel thankful or blessed. We’re sharing our observations and our pictures of ourselves and everyone we love, in all our moods and various flattering lightings. And we’re waiting to hear the echoes back of people liking everything we’ve posted, noticing everything we say. It’s easy to be cynical about this, but if I think about it long enough, I think this is all good, I love all of this. I love people sharing their moments and marking them as blessed or thankful moments. It’s good to notice, it’s good to feel grateful. It can’t be a new thing–people must have always felt this way, wanting to get their thoughts and feelings out, though it wasn’t so easy to share everything so quickly. And maybe it was all better when you had to take your time and think more carefully about everything you said. Maybe words are more precious when they’re not more easily shared, when you have to work and work at it till you get that wonderful buzz from getting it just right. But then I think about how easily and strangely words come to my boys when they’re not thinking about it at all. They’re not even worried about sharing it, they’re not even concerned about the reaction they get. They’re just saying what they think in all of their unselfconscious oddly perfect glory. Malcolm’s favorite adjective is “dancing,” and he uses it in the most unlikely most wonderful places. It throws you off guard with how much sense it makes. And our Isaac always has the right weird words at the right weird time. He was feeling down the other night after it got dark and we sent him to bed, and he said everything felt “damp and broken.” If you’ve ever felt down, which means if you’re human, you know that he got it exactly right. And Isaac likes to share his philosophies. Here’s one: Nobody can do everything, but everyone can try. And here’s another: It’s not done until you do it. And last night he actually spent a lot of time and effort perfecting this ridiculously beautiful tongue twister: I think I thought a thousand thoughts that no-one else could think. And isn’t that the crux of it all! When you’re having trouble getting the words out, or making something that you need to make, or doing something the you need to do…think about the billions of thoughts you’ve thought that no-one else could think. And then think about how important that makes them. And then, children, babble them like mad, until they echo off the canyon walls.

David said this soup was “perfect” and that made me happy! It’s a meaty vegetarian soup. (Vegan if you leave the butter out.) I put a lot of things in it that you certainly don’t need to add if you don’t have them. Honestly, the rice and lentils will give it favor enough. Miso and tamari give it a deeper, more savory flavor, but if you happen not to have them, no worries! If you have marmite, you could add a teaspoon of the instead or as well. I used the herbs that are still in my garden, and I think there’s a perfect balance if you use rosemary, sage, and lemon thyme. If you don’t have those, though, use what you do have! It’s a very adaptable soup. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Here’s Twilight Echoes by Roy Smeck.
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French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

Like many, many people, I suspect, I spent some time yesterday watching films and videos of Pete Seeger. In particular, we watched clips from his television show Rainbow Quest, which aired from 1965- 1966. It was videotaped in black and white, and although his wife, Toshi, was credited as “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” it happens that she actually directed the show. The program was made on a low budget, funded by Seeger and a co-producer, and though it’s humble and understated by today’s slick standards, it’s full of the generosity and joy that seems to pour out of Seeger. He seems so friendly and kind in a way that makes those ordinary qualities the most weighty and important in the world. Watching him, you can feel that he’s brimming over with the desire to share; to share music and knowledge and love. On his guitar he wrote the words “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” and the whole rich history of Seeger’s political activism just makes sense in this light. Looking back now it seems so easy to decide to be on the side of the oppressed, the poor, the hated. It couldn’t have been easy at the time, and we have the songs and spirit of Seeger to thank for helping to lead us in the direction of generosity and affection. He touched so many people, with his uncalculating unselfconscious enthusiasm. He was a teacher and a disseminator. It seems that his desire to make music and to perform was never about fame or stardom, it was about the joy of making the music and the need to send that music out into the world so that others could hear it as well. He had a curatorial spirit, which is a quality I greatly admire, because it’s so unselfish and giving. You never see him singing when he doesn’t invite others to sing with him, his friends, his colleagues, his audience. We watched a clip of him on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1970. He sings Worried Man Blues. Cash sets him up a chair at the edge of the stage, because he knows that Seeger needs to get the audience to sing with him. Seeger talks about the worries that we all share, and then he talks about the hope waiting for all of us, “Well I looked down the track just as far as I could see, little bitty hand was waving back at me.” We watched Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash on Seeger’s show as well. They tell stories, they sing together, they talk about friends they’ve loved and lost, and sing their songs as well. They sing folk songs about living and loving and dying and being remembered. Johnny Cash died four months after June, and Pete Seeger died yesterday, six months after his wife, Toshi. Just watching these clips of them, over the years, makes you thankful for enduring love and friendship in the world, wherever we can find it. Pete Seeger sings a song for June and Johnny, “Little birdy, little birdy, what makes your wings so blue, it’s because I’ve been a dreaming, dreaming after you, Little birdy little birdy come sing to me a song, I’ve a short while to be here, and a long time to be gone. Little birdy, little birdy, what makes you fly so high, it’s because I am a true little bird, and I do not fear to die.”

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

This is a very comforting wintertime pizza. Warm and smoky, soft and crispy.

Here’s Elizabeth Cotten on Rainbow Quest, telling the heartbreaking and hopeful story of how she met the Seegers because she worked for them as a cleaning lady and cook, and Pete Seeger’s step mother discovered that she played the guitar, though she hadn’t played in years.
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