Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Dad, and Chickpea Soup

It's garden season.  Outside, during the day, the hum of lawnmowers and weedwhackers and rototillers is almost constant now--something I'd never really noticed before, since I haven't ever been home during the week in the spring and summer.  Our back deck is populated with small tomato plants, getting a good start in pots before being transferred to the yard where they will grow wild and become like long spindly aliens, leaning--but only partially--against the wire fencing meant to guide them to upright positions.

I think a lot about my father at this time of year, because he was always working in the garden or in the yard.  An immigrant from Spain by way of Cuba (which he left after being the next one facing a firing squad, before they decided, somewhat randomly, to stop for the day), he came from a family of farmers, and was sent to a charity boarding school in France so as to ease the burden on the family of nine children.  Though he became a teacher, his love of the earth never really left him, and when I was growing up we were known for our beautifully landscaped property, and for the small roadside table where I was charged with selling tomatoes and zucchini in the summer.  Later, after he retired, he had an off-the-books landscaping business that seemed to grow by leaps and bounds, and I still have to chuckle to myself, thinking about him driving around the neighborhood with lawnmowers and weedwhackers sticking out from the trunk of his old, impeccably maintained (but tank-like) Mercedes Benz.  My father died of stomach cancer in 2003 at the age of 75, and in many ways, I felt like I never got to know him.  He was very private about his life before he started a family, especially about his life as a Marist brother before he met my mother.

Not many people can say that they have an ex-clergy member as a parent.  My father was an interesting blend of frugal and spendthrift, which I see as a parallel to his split between his devotion to God and his desperate need (for reasons he never made clear to us, unfortunately) to have a family.  He met my mother on a trip he was running for students and teachers of Spanish to go to Spain, and, legend has it, the rest is history.  He was also torn between his workaholic tendencies and his ability to completely zonk out in front of the TV at the end of the day, watching nothing for hours on end.

I miss him more now than I used to, I think, now that I have children, wishing that he could have seen them, knowing that for all of his faults, he would have been a wonderful grandfather, and his grandchildren would have mellowed whatever austerity and severity was left in him.   And I especially miss him when I'm weeding in the yard, listening to the sound of the chimes tinkling in the breeze.  He would have appreciated the crossroads where I am right now, and would have felt quite free to opine about it, even if I would have also felt free to ignore his advice.

So, though he would never in his life have eaten a vegetarian (or--heaven forbid--VEGAN!) meal on purpose, I'm going to dedicate this post to my father, a man who, despite my difficult relationship with him, made things grow in the springtime in a way that I always admired, a man who had a hidden passion for landscape architecture, and a man who struggled with balance and parenthood as so many of us do.  I'm looking forward to making meals with the bounty from our garden and CSA again, but until then, this simple soup will do.

Saint Joseph Chickpea Soup

2 c. dried chickpeas
10 c. water
15 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, minced
2 carrots, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 bouillon cube
1 bay leaf salt and pepper to taste

Soak chickpeas overnight. Boil them in plenty of water, add all the remaining ingredients, and cook slowly over medium heat for about 1 hour, until the peas and all the vegetables are tender.

Add salt and pepper. Simmer the soup, covered, for about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve hot.
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  1. What a beautiful post (and a beautiful soup). Thank you for sharing your father with us. I feel honored to know about him. Parents are such strange and wonderful entities in our lives, even after they have left us.

  2. your soup look delicious! I am amazed at the impact our parents have on our lives, especially the ones who have not tried in earnest to impact us. Your father sounds like he had many stories that he could have told. I suppose I'm blessed to have heard my father's stories, they have helped in understanding him at times. I'm looking forward to eating loads of veggies this summer!

  3. Beautiful post about your father with some great imagery.

  4. I've been eating LOTS of chickpeas. My favourite thing lately is to make a chunky salad of roasted sweet potato, red onions capsicum plus chick peas, sultanas, cashews, and lots of garam masala and some salad green, served with just a bit of yogurt.

    It's pruning, and soil prep, and mulching, and planning, and green manure time in my garden.

  5. what a beautiful post about your dad. he sounds like he was a fascinating man.

    oh, & the soup looks good too! ;)

  6. This is a lovely post, Justine. I kept thinking about the final lines of "A River Runs Through It", when he talks about the people whom he loved but did not fully understand being gone. It's a hard thing, though sometimes I think that it's impossible to know all those things about another person. Especially a parent who is filled with contradictions (as we all are).

    I love chickpeas. There's just something so comforting and nourishing about them.

  7. That was a really nice dedication. The recipe looks amazing as always.

  8. Wow, your dad sounded like a very interesting person. Soup is a wonderful thing to dedication his honor. And I no longer tell folks when I'm serving something Vegan or Vegetarian and most of the time they can't even tell.

  9. It sounds like your father had a remarkable life. Thanks for sharing his story with us!

  10. Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday. What a beautiful post about your dad and all that you learned from him.

    Another things we apparently have in common is that my dad did joined the seminary as a freshman in high school and didn't leave until 9 years later, as a first year grad student. He was one year shy of being ordained a priest. The story goes that the day he left he called my mom (whom he grew up with in a small town outside of Columbus, Ohio) to ask her out on a date.

    So I do appreciate what it is like to have been raised by a father who set out to serve the Lord and ended up marrying and having his own family.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your father. It must be so bittersweet to think about him and your life before and after he died. I am sad to know that your children never got to know their maternal grandpa.

    I feel very blessed and lucky to have known and had a good relationship with all four of my grandparents, though they didn't live locally (one set in Ohio and the other in South Carolina). I also am grateful that my children have grown up (so far) with all four of their grandparents in their lives and living locally.

    I also appreciate what you shared here about the things we try to do similarly and differently as parents based on how we were parented. There are definitely things I found frustrating that my parents did when I was a kid, that I totally do with my own children now.

    I do love that each generation has the privilege and opportunity to learn from the one that came before us and hopefully give our children the best of what we experienced and change the things we can that didn't work for us.

    Thank you for doing the Time Warp again! Heading back to the future to finish reading and comment on your new post.

  11. Beautiful, evocative writing here. Gorgeous.

    I'm sorry I missed this the first time around.

  12. Oh, how I love the way you see your father. The whole yin and yang thing -- he a man of extremes and you a woman of balance and moderation (that's how I see you). What an interesting life he led. I'm sorry he didn't get to see you as a mom, to get to know his grandchildren.

    I can tell how special he was because I've witnessed how special you are.

  13. Amazing post, causing me to reminisce about my grandfather, and his stories of Lithuania and Granada and civil war and finally immigrating here to the States. Like you, I miss him more than I used to, and I feel that even with all the things I do know, I never knew him.


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