Feeling the warmth of winter

by Brittany Grace

Six days ago, as the sun teased us with flirtations of warmth and I basked in the all-too-fleeting moments of a splendid Saturday outside, I felt perfectly healthy and happy. How quickly things change.

My dear Kiana took this - winter looking its best. She lives in Brooklyn. I need to visit.

Days later, winter’s dismal gray demeanor reminds us it’ll be around a while longer. Gone with the warm sun rays went my healthy lungs and robust immune system. What started as a cold has turned into a rather frustrating bout of bronchitis, rendering me useless in the kitchen. Instead, I’m moving from bed to couch, consuming large quantities of echinacea tea, grapefruit juice and sopa de pollo.

I’ve had plenty of time to make one of my “things done” lists. Lists tend to make me feel better: they cause me to step back and view things more objectively. They also reinstate my sometimes waning sense of purpose.

Things that were done this week:

Made 10 batches of vegan curried lentil soup. Perfected cumin-carrot raita for Indian chicken salad. Roasted the most lovely Springer Mountain farms chicken. Enjoyed snacking on the crispy, salty, crunchily perfect skin from said roasted chicken. Worked some 16 hour days. Woke up early. Sold out at Farmers market in under an hour (I clearly could have prepared much more food). Delivered baskets filled with jars of goodness to an array of folks. Practiced yoga. Missed my friends on vacation. Fantasized about a tropical vacation. Consumed the maximum recommended daily amount of Theraflu. Drank a half-gallon of orange juice. Had business meetings. Fretted over and edited business plan. Got lost on 285 for 2 hours, with Laura at the wheel of her aunt’s pristine Jaguar, trying to locate the ice cream truck for purchase. Found the truck, bought it, and discovered the headlights are out. Moved some money. Slept fitfully. Cut off my hair. Saw the Smith Westerns at the Drunken Unicorn. Ran into a friend from out of town. Had a reunion with a friend from middle school. Rubbed elbows at Church with the Lady Rogue Business Network. Made a new friend. Postponed some meetings. Stayed in bed. Researched recipes. Missed my first Wednesday Decatur Farmers market. Felt distressed. Felt hopeful.

A week ago, I was huddled over a Bon Appetite curried lentil soup recipe I had scrawled on the back of a receipt for Burt’s Bees chapstick, trying to imagine how much flavor I would lose by omitting butter from the recipe. I went with my gut and eliminated all butter. The soup ended up being earthy, slightly spicy, with a pleasant kick from the addition of some fresh ginger  – it provided a warmth I’m ready to feel again.

Photo by Elinor Carruci for Bon Appetite

 

It is a warmth you only feel in winter after enjoying a particularly savory, spice-laden meal: as it thaws out your insides, a coziness radiates from the center of your chest. As soon as I kick the unpleasant bout of bronchitis I’ve developed to the curb, I will make it once more.

In the meantime, I’m reminded that the nasty days of wintry mixes and personal maladies are broken up by surprises, adventures, and connections – and that it is this juxtaposition that makes you come alive, and feel warm.

Vegan curried lentil soup, adapted from Bon Appetite

You need:

3 tbs olive oil

1 med onion, chopped

2 med carrots, chopped

1 med piece of fresh ginger, shaved

2 garlic cloves, chopped and divided evenly

Curry powder (several tbs)

1 cup green lentils

4 1/2 cups water, divided

1 16 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

2 green onions

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a big pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; add some salt and pepper. Cook until onion is no longer opaque – about 4 minutes.  Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but tender.  Add 2 tablespoons curry powder, and stir until you notice the unique scent of the curry wafting in your kitchen – only a minute or so.  Add lentils and 4 cups water; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Taste along the way – season with curry powder, salt and pepper, and ginger along the way as you see fit. While lentils are simmering, throw chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the rest of the garlic in a food processor. (This is an easy way to make hummus. If you want, double the about of chickpeas, juice, water and olive oil, and save half the mixture for a creamy hummus dip you can throw in the fridge for lunch the next day). After you puree the mixture, add slowly to the simmering lentils. Continue cooking, tasting and seasoning as needed for another 10 minutes or so. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with slivers of green onion and a lemon wedge. Get warm!


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