Monday, November 15, 2010
At the start of the school year, each grade level signed up to bring one of our staff, Joyce, dinner. Joyce is going through chemotherapy right now, and on the weeks she has treatments, we are all making sure she has a good dinner on the table the night before they begin. Being new at the school, I have only just met Joyce. It didn't take long, however, to see the compassion she has for the students, and the great knowledge she has from her years of experience.
Joyce is our media specialist, and for anyone who is a teacher, you know this position is at the heart of the school's functional system. She has dropped everything to help me find a book, she has talked to our team at length about creating lessons to support our grade level's curriculum, and she has helped me out of technology jams more than once. All of this, while she is going through what must be a very difficult, scary, and challenging time in her life.
I decided to make soup. Soup always builds me. It makes me feel nourished and stronger, and that's what I wanted for Joyce. I thought about exactly what kind of soup I would make for awhile... but, I ended up deciding on minestrone. A soup so simply stuffed with every possible vitamin- what else could be better?
Soup is decidedly simple. It's one pot. It's chopping and some seasoning and some broth and it's eating. But, I had to put more than that into this pot of soup. Somehow, I had to get every positive thought, every ounce of strength, and every bit of extra energy I had into this soup. I started by chopping the freshest organic vegetables I could find.
Leeks, green beans, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, yukon potatoes, zucchini. As I chopped, I thought about Joyce and thought about her full recovery. I saw her be able to stop wearing her handkerchief- which I must note- she rocks- I saw her with her family, I saw her busy putting away books, I saw her teaching media lessons, working with the 5th graders on morning announcements, and reading stories to the kindergarten students... I saw her strong.
Into my Le Creuset all the veggies went along with a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil, a hearty couple pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. I added in 2 bay leaves (this was a lot of veggies), a few pinches of thyme, a few shakes of ground fennel, and a few shakes of hot pepper flake. On medium, I allowed the veggies to sweat out and begin to soften. I also added a small rind I cut from a wedge of parmesan cheese.
When they had about 10 minutes or so, I added in a bunch of chopped kale and a can of whole tomatoes with their juice. I gave the tomatoes a quick chop before adding them. I also added 4 cups of veggie stock, a can of cannelloni beans, and a couple handfuls of whole wheat orzo pasta. From here, it just needed time. I allowed it to come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes, before backing it down to a slow simmer. About 20-30 minutes later, I scooped out bowls for Scott and I to have for dinner, and packed a large container to take to Joyce the next day.
I also packed her a small container of basil pesto and some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Soup is great, but the garnishes make it fabulous. The pesto was extra special, as it was from a jar of homemade that Rachel gave me. She'd canned loads of pesto in August when her garden overflowed with basil.
The soup was good. Really good. I hadn't made a minestrone in awhile and Scott and I were in heaven. It was tomatoey, brothy, veggie heaven. We ate it along with a chunk of sourdough bread, and I would allow the corner to soak up the soup until it was practically falling apart... delicious. I was happy that this was the meal I was passing on to Joyce and her husband.
After I ate, I felt nourished and strong- and convinced Joyce would feel the same.