Friday, January 16, 2015

The Spiritual Practice of Soup

If I wrote a book of spiritual and artistic exercises or any sort of self-help book, it would include a chapter on having nourishing food in the house.  How can we nourish our spiritual and artistic selves if our physical selves are starving?

Last Saturday, I had a group of friends coming over for quilting/knitting/catching up and lunch.  I told everyone I would make a big pot of soup.  But as I thought about what kind of soup to make, I couldn't remember which of my friends had which dietary restrictions.  I knew that my Hindu friend would not eat beef, and one of us is vegetarian.  One of us won't eat anything with alcohol in it.  Were any of us vegans this month?  Anyone avoiding gluten?  I couldn't remember.

So, I played it completely safe.  I went with a simple vegetable soup.  I was surprised by how delicious it was, given that it was so easy to make.  It was easy, because I make sure to have these kinds of ingredients in my pantry and freezer.  That's good, since we didn't have many fresh veggies in the house.

I started with a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes:  into the pot which was heating.  I had a package of frozen mixed veggies:  peas, corn, chopped carrots, and green beans.  I used a can of kidney beans so we'd have some protein, but any bean would do.  I used a can of pumpkin which thickens the soup and significantly raises the vitamin A content, and since it was so thick, I put in a can of water.  I gave it a swirl of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, plus basil and oregano, my favorite herbs.  I also used some onion powder and garlic powder, since I didn't have any fresh onion or garlic.

Then I let it simmer.  It was delicious when I served it, and even more delicious later, and I'll tell you why:  I accidently let it simmer all afternoon.

When it was time for lunch, I heated up the soup and turned down the heat in case anyone wanted seconds.  At some point, I thought I had turned off the stovetop, but I hadn't.  So the soup simmered and thickened all afternoon.

Happily, it never got to the scorching point.  And I've enjoyed it all week long.

One of my plans for this holiday week-end will be to make more soup.  Or maybe I'll make a casserole.  Maybe both.

I know people who hate having leftovers.  Those people must have plenty of time to cook.  Or the money and metabolism to eat out every day.  That's not me.

I know people who claim that cooking is too complicated.  But a good pot of simple soup shows how simple it can be.  I didn't even have to puree part of the soup to have a thicker soup.  I didn't have to pay attention to it at all.

I think about how people talk about how hard it is to feed our families, to come up with something for dinner.  But with a pot of soup, you just need some bread, and dinner is ready!

It's also good to remember how easily this soup could be enlarged.  For those of us who have lots of people to feed, all we need is bigger portions and a bigger pot.

I've always been attracted to churches who feed the hungry from their kitchens.  I wish more of us would do this.  I understand why so many of us can't--we can hardly get people to come to church on Sunday.  How would we staff a daily soup kitchen?  So many churches can scarcely pay the bills they have now--how would they fund a new project?

I like my church's approach.  We combine a simple soup supper with a Wednesday night service:  nourishment for body and soul!

We could do the same thing at home:  a soup supper with a bit of devotion time.

But at the very least, we should have a pot of soup ready to nourish ourselves or whoever else might need it.  How can we nourish the world, if we're not nourished ourselves?

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