The signs are there. I can feel it the early morning air, when the wind is quiet and subdued. I can see it in the light, soft and gentle and brimming with hope. The scent of spring fills the spaces all around me. Even with winter’s wrath lacking a real presence this year, there’s still something special about the first signs of a new season approaching. And for the last couple of weeks the signs have been welcomed and obvious. Mid-evening walks with a sweater on, flowers bursting through the wet soil above and driving with the windows down. I miss driving with the windows down. So let it be.
Even though we avoided the usual reality of winter`s full potential , it’s nice knowing the horizon holds new beginnings and warmer weather. And potential, disguised as a cloudless sky with blue hues. Yet the occasional day reminds us that the cycle of life and nature ends only when it comes to a complete and utter end. No timetable for that. And on days like today, when the air crackles in the morning and doesn’t relent for the duration of the day, it’s a reminder not to get too ahead of ourselves. And there is beauty on the coldest days, the weary ones.
W and I woke up today with the slight frost on the bedroom windows telling us all we needed to know. Spring would have to wait. Weeks. Probably longer. My wife saw me off in the morning, our daily routine one of the things I cling to most. There would be no windows down today, instead the heat on to defrost the back and front windows to show the way. I went from meeting to meeting with the soft scarf my wife got me clinging gently around my shoulders. My favourite winter hat pulled down to cover my ears. The snow has all but disappeared but the brisk air isn`t going anywhere. And that`s okay.
On these cold days my mind usually wanders to stay warm. Hard to concentrate for long. And it doesn’t take long before my wandering mind starts to think about a hot bowl of soup. The kind that cuts through the coldest part of you. A full pot of savoury goodness to warm the bones and ingnite the soul. So the rest of my day was spent counting down the hours, hour by painstaking hour, until I could walk through the door and head straight into the kitchen. But of course, time stood still. The moment would have to wait.
When the remains of the day finally came to a close I drove straight to the store to pick up some of the goods I didn’t have on hand. I parked a few spots from the door but those few steps in and out of the store were enough to send a shiver through my body. I made the drive past the last few blocks and down the long narrow street to our house. I sat impatiently at the stop sign before turning into our driveway. A few moments later and I was entering my comfort zone, home. W and the dog there to greet me. A routine I have my heart set on. Rely on.
After reconnecting with my wife , our talk turned to dinner. When the air outside is cold we both crave the same thing, hot soup. And after a day like today I wasn’t going to prolong the inevitable any longer. I moved straight for the kitchen at the back of the house. There is something incredibly relaxing about preparing food for your loved ones. A symphony of sounds at work. The rhythm of the knife working against the worn wooden block is settling. The sound of oil dancing around the bottom of a hot pan is mesmerizing. The sizzle acts as the musical crescendo. Those first twenty minutes are spent building depth and flavour.
There`s a bit of a dance that takes place in the last few minutes before you eat. A balancing act. The final touches, seasoning and plating and garnishing. Everything coming together at the right time, perfect time. Setting the table for the moment at hand and calling my wife to dinner. I will never tire of calling her down and pulling back the curtain. She comments on the aroma reaching her upstairs, her excitement building as she makes her way down the small flight of stairs and to the table. It leads to the two of us sharing in another moment, a potential memory to be. We relax and unwind while taking comfort in the warmth as the whistle of the fierce wind outside is heard all around us. The perfect way to wind our way into the evening.
The signs are there. Most days now. I can feel it and see it all around, in the light and feel and sounds all around me. But some days winter reappears and reminds us that the best things have to wait. Time. And she inundates us with cold air and those usual winter symptoms. So on those days, and these ones, we make soup. And hide inside. Mostly, we share in the promise of what is to come. With food, but mainlywith each other.
So we let it be.
From my kitchen to yours,
RED LENTIL & VEGETABLE SOUP
(slightly adapted from this Cannelle et Vanille recipe http://www.cannellevanille.com/2011/01/my-comfort-food.html )
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 leek, cut in half, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup celeraic, roughly chopped
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- small handful of thyme sprigs
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. kosher salt & cracked pepper
- grated Parmesan cheese
- In a large saucepan heat the butter and oil until the butter froths up a bit. Add in the leeks, garlic, carrots, celery and cook for 5 minutes, or until just softened.
- Add in the sweet potato, potato, celeraic and stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock, red lentils, cumin, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover the pot. Let simmer for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened. At the moment the vegetabled have softened, remove from the heat immediaely.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and grate the fresh Parmesan over top.
- Serves 6.