I woke up this morning searching for a word… my mind has predictably been a bit preoccupied with the things I’ve been writing about and it just seemed that there should be word to sum up the feelings I have about Lent. It’s come to me…. Lent is elemental, a return to things earthy and fertile, gestational. I wanted to make a pot of soup this morning and as I gathered my ingredients, it occurred to me that my soul is yearning for simple ingredients, found items, earthy foods. These vegetables were not purchased specially for today’s soup pot, but were merely lurking in the pantry, some of them a gift from a friend who had found them in amongst the markdowns at the local co-op.
As I peeled and chopped, I continued to cogitate on the meaning of the word elemental and its relevance and resonance in my spiritual life. I decided that it fits with this pre-spring season, fits with the earthy smell of the spring bulbs which are already pushing their way into bloom, somewhat early this year. It fits with the empty larder, and the last of the winter root vegetables. It even fits with my husband who populates his spiritual calendar differently than I do mine. At this time of year, he makes regular pilgrimages to the mud flats in search of prehistoric fossils and the remains of civilizations past… when he comes in from the rain and the mud, he smells of something earthy and elemental, and he is satisfied with his walk in the mud, his commune with a natural world I can barely comprehend.
My soup greets him with warmth and substance, the result of my time in my kitchen; the earthiness of my ingredients balance nicely with the loftiness of my early morning meditation. I serve it with the ciabatta bread I baked yesterday, its simple flavouring of olive oil and yeasty goodness making it just right for dunking.
Simple pastimes, simple pleasures… and for those of you who fear I’ve abandoned my knitting practice, note my bright-and-cheery handknit tea towel in the picture above. As I said, simple pastimes, simple pleasures…
Heat a small glug of olive oil in a large saucepan. Peel and dice a couple onions and a few cloves of garlic and set them to simmer in the oil while you peel and chop a few carrots, a parsnip or two, a turnip, some potatoes, a handful of mushrooms, and whatever else you find lurking in your vegetable bin. Add the vegetables to the pot, along with a tin of chopped tomatoes and a handful of dried herbs (I used basil and a bouquet garni). Cover with water and add a tin of beans (I used cannellinis ) and a handful of pearl barley. Add a stock cube, if desired. Simmer until the barley is cooked and the soup is thick and flavourful.