The wisdom of soup
This is the time of year when wise people all across the country are making vegetable soup. Or blocking out an hour every morning to go for a pleasant walk. Or stopping by an old friend’s for coffee. After all the busy-ness of making nice holiday experiences for other people, many folks need to reconnect themselves with habits and rituals that build themselves up.
This, of course, is the point where a lot of us start feeling guilty. After all, shouldn’t we find all the happiness and well-being we need in service to other people? That’s a theory that many really wish was true, but the fact is that it doesn’t work out that way in real life. Friends, it doesn’t matter how hard you beat yourself up with accusations of laziness or hazy notions of someone else’s superhuman selflessness. Empty is empty, and you will stay that way until you fill yourself up.
It is a foundational truth of being human that making ourselves stronger, healthier and happier is the only thing that makes us able to give more to others. I would argue that it is the parents who have not found a way to build up their own resources who are now looking kindly into the eyes of their toddlers and cooing: “Mommy must go for a walk now or she will sign you up with an Army recruiter, burn the house down and join a coven of dark magic. Okeydokey?”
It is particularly critical that we tend to our general health and well-being when there is so much winter still ahead of us. Regardless of how much you might enjoy feeling the north wind’s icy blasts tickle your cheeks as it sweeps across a frozen lake while you stare hopefully at the little bobber floating amongst chunks of ice in your fishing hole -- or whatever other winter-time activities might amuse you -- still, the long nights, cold weather and co-workers who share their germs will take their toll.
Take some time to just be quiet and still for a moment, and what you need will probably come bubbling up to the surface -- whether it’s a body desperate for better food or more exercise, a mind looking for a peaceful moment alone in the day, or a soul longing for connection with friends. Then take a look at your days and weeks and schedule it in. Nothing will happen if you just think wishful thoughts -- gather your resources, make your intentions known and carve out the time.
One of the things that I’ve taken to doing recently is making large quantities of food on the weekends so that Tom and I can eat healthily through the week without putting forth a lot of effort. A big pot of vegetable soup is one of the most satisfying things to cook -- it fills the house with fragrant steam and is full of things that make your body and soul strong in the face of adversity.
But, before the recipe, one quick aside: I am reviving the Facebook page associated with this column. If you do the social media thing, hunt for “The Table” and look for a profile picture of me wearing the dorky blue hat I got for Christmas. Then, come visit for any tips or thoughts that didn’t fit in the column, or to ask questions or share thoughts of your own.
Put in a large, heavy stockpot:
About six pounds of chicken (a whole chicken, or bits and pieces, doesn’t matter) Two large onions, coarsely chopped One head of garlic, minced or pressed Cover with water to just an inch above the chicken.
and simmer for 2-3 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bone. Pour the broth through a colander, straining out the chicken, garlic and onion. Return the broth to the stockpot, bring it back to a low simmer and add one of the following: 1-2 tablespoons of dried rosemary, or a bunch of fresh and 1-2 tablespoons of dried thyme, or a bunch of fresh OR
1 tablespoon of ground ginger and 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
1 tablespoon chili powder 2 teaspoons paprika
Then add up to two quarts of chopped vegetables. Pick just two, of contrasting colors and flavors, such as:
Sweet potato and kale Broccoli and carrots Sauerkraut (rinsed, drained and chopped) and sweet red pepper
Simmer until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. Season with salt to taste. Do not add rice, noodles or other fillers. Use the chicken meat for something else. A really good broth packed with densely nutritious vegetables is only diminished when other things are added to it.
Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.