I spent Wednesday orbiting the stove like a lovesick planet. A much cooked in (read very dirty) patchwork apron fixed around my soft middle and untied moccasin slippers on my feet. If you’re familiar with The Tale of Two Bad Mice, I lived as Hunca Munca might, had the dollhouse been stocked with real food and working appliances. Just a sweet tempered mousy lady, living in a house she adored, shuffling across the floor on a chilly morning and tending to the bubbles for the ones she loved. Three soups, two dye baths, one loaf of bread, and countless tea kettles made the final tally. Now two days out, Gus will be thrilled if he never sees another soup pot again and Craig wondered aloud last night if this is how old people eat..? The soups are delicious, we at least agree on that, but I think we could all be served by something with a little more chew at lunch and dinner's next arrivals.
Lately I've been splattering the pages of Broth and Stock (see above soup habit), finding comfort in centuries old kitchen wisdom and the ease with which I can shop from my own larder for many of the recipes. A bit of self-reliance and long endured traditions do a little witchy woman good, I think. In an increasingly unsettled world, I am so profoundly grateful to have the space, time, safety and ability to cultivate the opposite in our home. These simple acts of love- making, tending, stewing, baking, mending - the great ings of a rumored simple life - they are foundational, elemental. Recently in what felt like my millionth impotent conversation on What Comes Next, a dear friend expressed that we can't lay down our day to day as if those things aren't essential to our survival and sustained activism. The way we run our homes and livelihoods are rebellion and resistance in their own right, if we’ll have them that way.
Today, Inauguration Day, is the first in a long line of long days ahead of us. I’m posted up in my kitchen, as usual, with Gus at my feet building a spaceship from the scraps of protest signs. The internet skipped out on us about an hour ago and we consented to the live streaming news of today’s events falling silent, the tipping point from Informed to Overstimulated likely reached hours ago. I want to go real-to-the-events-of-her-story Hunca Munca and trash the metaphorical house. Crash the plates to the ground and chuck the ladies’ best out the windows. It’s a real head trip when the world around you falls so glaringly short of your expectations. Instead though, we live. We march, we call, we talk, we write, we live our lives in such a way that other’s may live their lives, too. We bake bread for the little ones who so sweetly request sandwiches in their school lunches and we don’t worry about whose agenda the bread man bankrolls with our dollars. We pull ham hocks from the depths of our barn freezer, knowing our family will be nourished and absent from a food system that’s wreaking havoc on our earth. And above all, we choose life as resistance, as often as possible, our voices and fists raised collectively for a better tomorrow.
Spicy Sausage and Vegetable Soup with Avocado and Pinto Beans
I remember most of my grandmother's cooking in the shape of breakfast, cake, or pineapple mayonnaise sandwiches. The names of her best dishes always preceded by her own (Mama Joyce Eggs, Mama Joyce Pound Cake); her approach always simple and to the point. Some of these bits of her cooking are so thoroughly worked into the fabric of my own kitchen that the lines between what's hers and mine have softened, making way for eggs and cake that call me by own name. The fruit and mayonnaise sandwich will likely be left to her own legacy, though. But out of all the non-dinner dishes I remember, there's a vegetable soup that rises up into my mind from time to time. The memory of it is short, incomplete. But I remember feeling so curiously in awe of a woman who just knew how to make a standard vegetable soup. She didn't follow a recipe or open a can, it just came out of her. It felt nothing short of alchemy.
A few weeks ago we had entered the bi-weekly standoff between pantry and family. It's the well worn space in which we've grown accustomed to making peace with making do, all in the name of using it up. Soup is often where we find ourselves at this point, and this evening was no different, but the pot was a sad swirl of celery, carrots, and sausage. Not too terrible, of course, but not too great either. Eventually I worked the below pottage out of the pantry and my grandmother, and her wispy memory of a vegetable soup, came to mind. We've made it again twice since and Gus declared, I'll never call another soup the best soup! So, from our kitchen to yours, by way of a woman whose soup alchemy comes by inheritance.
Notes: I prefer a chicken stock in this soup but just recently only had what I needed on hand for a homemade vegetable stock. It performed beautifully. Use them interchangeably. If you prefer to use canned beans, one can of pinto beans will suffice. And if you have an eater whose palate isn't so agreeable to spicy foods, just avoid the meatballs and give them an extra bit of beans and/or avocado. The broth does develop a hint of spice, but it's fairly mild.
heaping 1/2 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight
12 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons of lard (or olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 head garlic (around 8 cloves), ends trimmed and cloves halved
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch slices
8 cups chicken stock (or water)
18 ounces crushed tomatoes
Pinch off about an inch of sausage at a time and roll into balls.
Heat lard in soup pot over medium heat. Add sausage balls in to brown, stirring occasionally to avoid burning and ensure browning on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Add in onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, stirring regularly, until onions are translucent and celery begins to soften.
Add stock, tomatoes, and soaked beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until beans are tender, about an hour.
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper once ready to serve.
Top with slices of avocado.