Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Abby Normal, and Rustic Cabbage Soup

I don't know about you, but some days I feel like I've become, a Vonnegut puts it, a little "unstuck in time." Other days I get up and think, OK, I can do this. I've been having more of the latter kinds of days recently, and I feel my sense of normal shifting a little bit.

Yesterday, at a meeting with some senior administrators, it became clear that there was a real possibility that we wouldn't be back at my university in the fall. I guess that had always been a possibility, but I guess I've been coping pretty well because I'm living in denial. And suddenly I felt like the ground moved out from under me.

It was a familiar nausea, a small part of something like what I felt when I lost my second pregnancy. I had all of these plans, plans that were made not just with me but with other people -- family, colleagues, friends -- and then the plans suddenly were not-plans. I didn't know how to live in the world any more, when the reality I'd imagined for myself was suddenly no longer even possible. And further, it was never going to be like it was "before."

My yoga teacher wrote something the other day that her teacher taught her about patience, and that really struck a chord for me. She wrote that "patience is not when we're sitting and waiting for something to be over" (that's more like tolerance); rather, patience is "staying present while knowing you don't know when, or how, or even if it (whatever it is) will end. What you do know is that you can't do anything to speed the process along." And what happens in the course of that kind of patience is that we emerge, from whatever it is, changed.

Like many of you, I suspect, I've felt frustrated and sad that the world I'm used to moving through isn't here, and from all indications, it's not likely to be back to that kind of normal any time soon. Or ever. People will die. People will lose jobs. Our whole economy is likely to change. That realization is sort of like being at the top of a roller coaster, and knowing that there is no way out but down; frankly, it makes me a little queasy, as unknowns tend to do. But maybe there's something to be gained from the practice of patience in the way my yoga teacher describes it. Normal wasn't working all that well anyway for a lot of people; if nothing else, COVID has laid bare those failures. Maybe we begin to cobble together something different, and eventually something better, than the normal we had before. Arundhati Roy has written about the how the Pandemic is a Portal: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next…We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”  And Ruha Benjamin reminded us in a talk she gave at our local independent bookstore Labyrinth recently, hope isn't something we have, but something we do.

You may not feel like you have the energy for that right now. I don't consistently have the energy for that, either. As a blogging friend said to me: there are "no words of wisdom or inspiration that are going to spiritually bypass us out of this one." But instead of waiting for it all go to back to the way it was, maybe there are small ways in which I can reimagine what's normal. Being present, being patient, showing up for whatever the hell this is, and being willing to be changed.

We've been making a lot of soup around here, because they're filling, comforting, and not too expensive. Good pandemic food, and good for a different kind of normal. This one is easy, uses things you are likely to have in your pantry or can find in a store.

Rustic Cabbage Soup
courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
1/2 lb. potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 c. stock (I used chicken stock)
1/2 c. soaked dried white beans (you can also just use 1 15 oz. can, see note)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes - it's o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times. Remove to a bowl.

Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half, and then add the potatoes back in. Cook for another 20 minutes or so or until the beans are soft.

Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Serve drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a generous dusting of parmesan cheese.

*Note: if you want to use canned beans, just add them into the potatoes along with the stock, and then add the cabbage without the long cooking time in between.


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3 comments:

  1. Love that distinction between tolerance and patience.

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  2. Yay - you're back!! This cabbage soup looks awesome, can't wait to try it. We have a ton of cabbage sitting around.

    I love everything you've written here. Especially this: "...patience is not when we're sitting and waiting for something to be over." So true. It's interesting to me that stoicism, the philosophy I've had the most luck with, has so much in common with yoga teachings. (I have had such a hard time with yoga over the years!)

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