Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Category: Soups

Soup Time/Winter Time

by lyzpfister

lentil soup with lemon-parsley oil

Let’s not get technical. I know it’s fall. But unless you too are living in Berlin – waking up every morning moaning about having to leave the comfort of your covers, wearing your winter coat inside, and wishing the heater went up just a few more notches – and want to argue with me, it’s winter.

It’s winter and I’m cold and all I want is a giant, warm bowl of soup. (And a new pair of glasses, pumpkin muffins, and a pedicure – but these are totally unrelated things.)

The great thing about soup is that it’s a totally addressable need. It requires very little energy to make – and make masses of. In mere minutes of work, you have a pot contentedly bubbling filling your living space with the warm aroma of – what is the aroma of soup? It might be a feeling, like saying, “I feel like soup smells.”

lentil soup with lemon-parsley oil

chopped yellow onions

I made my first soup of the season the other night. A lentil stew sweetened with carrot and sweet potato and brightened with a touch of curry and berbere. I might have gone a little overboard with the lentils. By the time I’d added everything to the soup, it filled the pot. I will be eating lentil soup for years, I thought.

What I forgot is that it’s winter, and that in winter, everyone is craving soup. That night, a few friends met at my apartment before heading to a party, and when I checked the soup pot the next morning, everything was gone.

ready for soup

Berbere from Kalustyan's in NY

Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Lemon-Parsley Drizzle
(serves: a lot)

1 tbsp olive oil
10 bacon strips
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
salt
cracked black pepper
1 tsp berbere spice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch of chili powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 package quick-cook lentils (guesstimating, I’d say about 2 cups)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes

For the drizzle:
½ cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup loosely chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add bacon (I used cured pork belly, which sounds fancy, but in Germany is the kind of thing you get at the discount grocery store for a euro fifty) and fry until crisping. Add yellow onions and sauté until translucent. Add sweet potato and carrots and cook until just tender. While the carrots and sweet potato are softening, add salt, cracked black pepper, berbere spice, cumin, turmeric, chili powder and curry powder.

sauteeing onions and pork belly for lentil soup

When your vegetables have softened, add quick-cook lentils and make sure to coat them with oil and spice before adding vegetable bouillon cubes and water to cover everything in the pot by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover pot with a lid.

lentil soup

Now go away. Do something else. Read a book. Cuddle with a puppy. Try on all of your sweaters. Check on your soup every now and then, and if it starts to get too thick, add another cup of water. Taste to adjust seasonings. For sure you’ll need more salt and pepper. This soup doesn’t take long to be “ready.” The lentils cook in about 15 minutes – but you want to let the flavors meld as long as you can, say 2 hours. Whenever you decide you’re ready to eat, use an immersion blender to puree your soup and add water to adjust thickness, if necessary.

a pot of bubbling lentil soup

I served my soup with this delicious lemon-parsley sauce which I had at a dinner party the other night. Whisk together olive oil and lemon and loosely chopped parsley. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

lentil soup with olive oil drizzle

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Plans

by lyzpfister

I was thinking, as I rode my bike rather recklessly the other day, about how much we rely upon the reactions of other people. As I sped down the hill at Hallesches Tor, I skimmed past a man weaving his way along. He was whistling, his step in lazed anti-tune to the sound. And I, too, was feeling the spring breeze in Berlin, letting the bike, brakeless, coast. We were close as I passed. I heard his tune; he surely felt my speed ruffle it out of place.

We expect someone in a straight line to continue in a straight line, without thinking that perhaps their plan had been, all along, to veer suddenly to the left. We continue on our way, taking for granted that the other person’s path runs smoothly within our plans. So we plan and we plan and paths snake along in perpendiculars until one day, they don’t. The man on the sidewalk veers to the left. You crash into him on your bike. It wasn’t the plan.

I don’t want to write a metaphor for happenstance. I just want to observe that we are constantly assuming the outcomes of others’ reactions, when those other people are planners themselves, planning our reactions back at us. It’s dangerous to do too much planning at fast speeds. Dangerous not to allow the veer its own possibility of chance.

We are natural planners – and it is good so – otherwise, how would we build cities, invent, bring our creations into being. We plan our lives, our futures, and these things are good. Still, we can plan and plan and plan and still plan a reaction wrong.

We’ll never drive less recklessly down the hill past Hallesches Tor. We’ll always assume the man to the left will walk in a straight line. We’ll plan for him, just as he plans that we’ll drive by. Until one day, we don’t.

Spontaneous Soup

Coarsely chop 5-7 medium carrots, 1/2 sweet potato, and 3 Jerusalem artichokes and set aside. In a soup pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Sautee 1 chopped yellow onion until translucent. Add other chopped vegetables, a pinch of cumin and curry powder, salt, loads of cracked black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook until vegetables are softened. Cover vegetables with water and add 1 bouillon cube. When water reaches a low boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Blend soup either with an immersion blender or by transferring to a blender. Return to pot, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Fall Homage, In Memoriam

by lyzpfister

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve bathed my laptop in liquids one too many times and I have killed it. Killed it dead. Marley was dead: to begin with, as my dear, dear Dickens said. And it’s getting to be that season anyway, though the weather is unseasonably warm here in Berlin. I took a long bike ride today, partly because the weather was so nice – and partly because I had to go to O2 to see if they could get the internet to work on this wonderful computer my dear friend Elisabeth has lent me – they can’t.

So, my laptop, my love is dead. My internet does not exist. I am shut off and out of the world. And here’s a secret. When, after two hours, the nice man at O2 told me the internet wasn’t going to work, I cursed the heavens silently, first, and then I felt – relief.  Although I don’t know if that is exactly the right word. There should be a word that means something in between resignation and freedom. So don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think I’m upset to be shut off and out the world. I can feel my brain blossoming.

Of course, the only thing to do the night I broke my laptop was to leave the apartment. To find my way to a champagne party whose address I wasn’t quite sure of since the internet had failed before I could plot my meticulous way across the city. To leave the scene of horror, half-sopped liquid still puddled on the floor, and go to meet people and drink champagne with berries and talk it out and then go dance it out. I know nothing more cathartic than hip hop and sweat. But the next day, my first day, waking up to a laptop pried open and drying on a chair, battery expunged (I learned that much from the first time I dropped a drink in the keyboard…), I didn’t know what to do. What could I do. Read. Write. Cook. You know, the things I moved to Berlin to do more of.

I finished The English Patient, I started Beloved, I even read some of Ezra Pound’s cantos over breakfast. I arranged the poems in my book, I edited them; I wrote letters and started a short story. And at first it was strange, luxuriating in a novel. Reading a hundred pages without getting up to check my email or rearrange some files or just do something else because I have become incapable of sitting down and breathing.

The computer compartmentalizes our lives, and not just when we’re using it, there where we live in multiple windows, web pages, in an online, app-driven multi-taskedness – the computer makes us take that hyperventilating approach into the outside world. We spend ten minutes on this before we think of that, are constantly syncing our e-lives, our cell lives, our paper lives together, don’t even know how to do one thing at a time. We have forgotten how to breathe, how to experience, how to think.

I won’t lie and say, I’m going to be even more of a technological neanderthal than I already am. When I finish writing this blog, I’m probably going to play a few rounds of spider solitaire on the computer. I never got around to downloading that game on my mac, and it’s pre-programmed on a PC, and I do love spider solitaire. When I go home at Christmas, I’ll be buying myself a new computer and instantly installing the internet on it. And organizing my itunes, my photo library, downloading apps and skype and all the rest of it.

For now, I won’t complain. I’ll be harder to reach – which is hard, since it’s already difficult to organize meetings with people I don’t really know but want desperately to be my friends. But I’ll write more. I’ll sit down and write blogs like this in one sitting without checking my email every three sentences – because there’s no email to check. I’ll read. Maybe I’ll actually get around to memorizing some poetry like I said this summer I was going to.  Or, like tonight, I’ll come home later than usual, after the biking and the errands and think, it’s late, but I’ll cook because there’s nothing else to do.

And when I finally eat my pumpkin soup, I am so glad I took the time to make it. It’s the most amazing pumpkin soup I’ve ever eaten. Spicy and deep with berbere and Jamaican jerk seasoning, earthy and sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg, and garnished with creme fraiche and green onions. But maybe it’s also so good because while I sat at the kitchen table, listening to my soup simmer, I read a letter from a friend, I wrote a little, and in the linear space I now inhabit, I gave my thoughts the space to grow.

Pumpkin Soup
Cover the bottom of a pot with olive oil; saute 2 small onions and 1 shallot until translucent. Add 1 small pumpkin (about the size of a baby’s head…), cubed, and 2 medium-sized potatoes (about the size of a leprachaun’s head…), cubed, and saute with salt, pepper, Jamaican jerk seasoning, berbere, and cinnamon until soft. Don’t be afraid of adding generous amounts of all those seasonings – but remember, it’s soup, the flavors will intensify as the soup cooks, so always just add bit by bit, and not all at once, over time, until the flavor is where you want it. Cover with water and add 1 vegetable bouillon cube. When water boils, reduce to low and simmer until pumpkin and potatoes are meltingly soft. Add a pinch of nutmeg. Blend until smooth (either with an immersion blender or in a food processor). Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped green onions.