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.
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.