Friday, July 1, 2011

Finding My Tribe: Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

There have been some interesting posts around the blogosphere lately about friendship.  Mel wrote a great post about female friendships that has inspired quite the lively discussion and remembrance of friends past.  Trinity has been writing about her efforts as a relatively new SAHM to forge new relationships with others in that position, about how different she suspected they might be, and how, later, she discovered that they might not be so different after all.  Esperanza wrote about her relationship to the blogging community, and her difficulty finding friends in "real life" that she connects with in the same way she connects online.

All of these have had me thinking about my own friendship history, or lack thereof.  It's not that I don't have friends, but rather, that I've never had the kind of female friends that Mel describes, the ones that "profoundly change you" and set you on a new life path.  In elementary school, I was too smart and too different to be included.  I did have a series of "best friends" back then, but they were more like "only friends" than anything else, other social misfits like me.  In high school, I had another series of "best friends," but I've drifted apart from nearly all of them, for geographical and ideological reasons, though we now stalk each other on fb.  In college, I had a group of great friends, many of whom I'm still in touch with, but I connected better with the males than the females--so much so that I had a "dude of honor" at our wedding, instead of a maid or a matron.

Soon after I had my son four years ago, I joined and was soon kicked out of the stay-at-home-moms group because I wasn't attending enough of their meetings, despite the fact that I actually took days off to attend playdates--talk about neurotic!  They weren't really my tribe anyway, and I started a working moms group in my county, in the hopes of finding other women who were dealing with the same challenges I was.  Now, four years later, oddly enough, though I do count many of those women as friends, I feel like it's created more close relationships for the other members of the group than it has for me.  To be honest, I've always been a little bit jealous of those women for whom those relationships seem to come so easily, and wondered what I was missing, what I was doing wrong.

In the past year or so, I've noticed that I finally seem to be developing more friendships with women.  I still don't think I would call them at three a.m. for a two hour conversation, but they're people I trust, and to whom I relate.  I don't know what's precipitated the change, other than the fact that maybe I'm becoming more willing to let down my own guard; it could just be that I've finally met the right people.  It could also be that technology has given me a platform that allows me to build relationships in a safer space, strange as that may sound.  We've all read about the ways in which social media isolates us, but in other ways, I suspect that it enables relationships that would never otherwise exist.

I adapted this recipe to my own tastes and dietary leanings from one originally published by the one and only Pioneer Woman.  It's particularly apt because as I was enjoying a long walk with a friend this past week we discovered that we'd both just been looking at it recently.  This soup is good for summer: unfussy, but filling, a little spicy, and highly adaptable ... just like good friends should be.

Tell us: do you have a "best friend" as Mel describes?  How did you find your "tribe"?

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

1½ t. cumin
1 t. chili powder
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. salt
1 T. olive oil
1 c. diced onion
½ c. diced red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10 Oz. Can) Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
32 oz. (4 c.) low sodium vegetable stock
3 T. tomato paste
4 cups hot water
2 cans (15 Oz. Can) black beans, drained and rinsed
½ c. frozen corn
3 T. cornmeal
5 corn tortillas, cut into 2-3" strips

sour cream/greek yogurt
diced avocado
diced red onion
grated monterey jack or cheddar

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the spice mix. Stir to combine.

Pour in tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more if needed—add more chili powder if it needs more spice, and be sure not to undersalt. Add the frozen corn. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before serving, gently stir in tortilla strips.

Ladle into bowls, then top with whatever garnishes you like!
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  1. Mmmm, that soup looks really good (have you also tried the Rick Bayliss one? We make it vegetarian).

    I've never found making friends easy -- nor keeping them. Easy just isn't the right word. But I do love this: "We've all read about the ways in which social media isolates us, but in other ways, I suspect that it enables relationships that would never otherwise exist." Because I think that friends often beget friends.

  2. What a gorgeous photo! I think that I make friends easily...but they tend to be kind of situational friendships. As in, we work together and get along and laugh at lunch every day, so that makes us friends. But what happens once we stop working together? We might see each other a couple times a year, but eventually that trickles away to nothing. I've often longed for an adult "best friend" to meet regularly for coffee and long talks. I crave regular interaction, but I move a lot and I'm not that great at keeping in touch. I'd love to find a tribe.

  3. Boy, does that soup look yummy. Might have to make that this week.

    I too have trouble making a lot of girl friends - I've alwasy been better able to relate to guys. But now as a SAHM, I feel the need to connect with other moms. But I'm a bit at a loss on how to do it. I need to get back to yoga class, and maybe when my girl is older and can walk, meeting other moms at the park would be nice. But around where I am, it also seems like it is more nannys, no moms. I don't know, I struggle with this too. How did you use online to make your new tribe?

  4. @Mel: I will have to look for the Rick Bayliss one! And thanks ... the blogging community is a good example, isn't it?

    @Stephanie: I know just what you mean. I'd meet you for coffee and a long walk! :)

    @Pie: Some of it was ... you should see if there's a group near you! But some of it has also been the blogging community. :) I also recommend yoga! I've been going for a while to the same class and am finally finding "regulars"! :) It's not easy, though ... as adults, I think we have fewer situations where we might happen upon new friends.

  5. I think that something about the dynamic of female friendships changes when we become mothers. This may be related to the way that something changes in the relationship we have with our own mother.

    I have always been more likely to interact with my closest friends in a one on one setting. Lately, I have a few groups of close female friends and I LOVE it. I love getting together in (small) groups. Sometimes you can talk and sometimes you can just listen or play with the kids. I think that blogging also creates a similar dynamic.

    The soup sounds fantastic. I like to make a very similar version except that I love to add a ton of lime juice.

  6. Oh. My. God. That soup looks amazing and I'm so hungry waiting for dinner. Now I want tortilla soup! Hmmmmm.

    As you know, this a subject after my own heart. At least, I am enthralled with it. I somehow forgot to comment on Mel's friendship post and am going to do so right after this.

    I don't think I've found my tribe yet. At least, not in real life. In the blogosphere I definitely feel like I've found my tribe and it feels amazing. It makes me want to blog even more than I did before. It's only happened in the past six months but now I have you, slowmamma, Trinity, Jirraffe, Bodega Bliss, Elizabeth, Stef, and Al and I feel so close to all of you from our blogs and Twitter. I feel totally enmeshed in all of your lives and I love it so much. And I know if something is bothering me that you will all be there to help me work through it. And I think that is what friendship is all about.

    Also, Jirraffe and Bodega Bliss live close enough to visit and when the three of us are together it is pure heaven. I ADORE it.

    I am seeking out some friends this summer. I feel like I'm on operation friendship. There is a woman from my work that just adopted a boy about Isa's age a few months ago. We have plans to see each other a lot this summer, I just hope that actually happens. We're definitely taking swimming lessons together so we'll at least see each other once a week.

    My best friend's wife had a baby four months ago and we're seeing more and more of each other. She is still at home and lives not far, but in a town that gets much warmer than the city so I have plans to retreat there when the fog and wind get to be too much for me. I bought a pool (with a gift card, don't worry ;) for their place and everything! So those are the two friendships I'm really trying to cultivate this summer. So far it's been nice.

    I'm also trying to reconnect with my three college girl friends. I need to let a lot go to do that but I think it's worth it. One of them just moved away from SF for a two year position in Atlanta. The last three visits with her were really wonderful and I cried a lot of tears when she left. Two days ago I thought I saw her on a bike near her house and then I realized it couldn't be her, wouldn't be her ever again and it really hit me that she was gone. It was hard. We've lived in the same city for 13 years and while our relationship was never simple, it had some great stretches.

    So yeah, finding my tribe would be amazing. Having a group of friends close by, who are in a similar place in their lives and who understand and except me, that would be amazing. Too amazing to ever happen but that's okay. A girl can dream, right? And anyway, what I have is quite wonderful, even if it's not ideal. I count myself as lucky for knowing all the amazing women I do know and can call friend.

  7. thanks for this post. I don't connect very quickly with people. My mom is extremely judgmental and so I like to blame her for my feeling like I have to always put a positive face on things, can't let my guard down. I have not met anyone in a long time who was as easy emotionally to be around as it is to be alone. Does that sound right? I don't know.

    Funny thing, we were walking around this little fourth of july celebration and a woman walked up to me and just started talking like we'd been friends for ages. I don't know if she's nuts or if I think I really like her. I'll give her a try though.

  8. I find that I'm rather friendly but bestest friends I only have 2 and I've known them for so long they refuse to let me go, lol. I used to put a lot of stalk in it but now I realize that its all I can do to maintain family relationships and that has definitely taken the front seat in the last 5 years. Crap, maybe I'm maturing.... no, never mind.

  9. I'm closer to people online than to people in 'real' life. Maybe it's because I didn't fit in in high school and have moved continent/country several times since. Or maybe it's just me: I've lived in Tasmania for almost 9 years, and I don't really have many close friends like Mel describes. Neither does my husband - I guess we have each other though! Love the sound of the tortilla soup, but we don't have all the ingredients here.

  10. I love tortilla soup! I am working on posting my Soupa de Lima recipe soon, another one of my favorites.

    For one, I'm glad that there is this online world, I now get to share with others who were a bit reclusive like myself. I have been faced with challenges with friendships, not the easy conversational friendly type that I can chat with at parties, but the ones who you can call and rely on in the middle of the night, or during dark crisis moments. Those are the moments I call my sister, or my one best friend whom I was lucky to meet in high school, and smart enough to not let go of. We were both social outcasts in our school. She was much to smart for the others, and I was just...I'm still not sure, but what ever it was I just didn't connect with the other girls. Luckily now I have my husband, my sister, and Trina. I'm good, I don't need a big tribe, and I could not commit to being there for all those moments for a large crowd of friends.

  11. Clearly by the response to this post you are not alone. I think not connecting in that profound way is very common, but doesn't get talked about much. Your story about the mommy group cracked me up. :)

    FYI - I am so hungry after reading this post!!

  12. This is the best tortilla soup I've ever had. I followed the recipe exactly and garnished it with avocado, tortilla chips, and shredded cheese. I will definitely make it again!

  13. Made this tonight and it was delicious!!! Great recipe.y whole family loved it.


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