Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Scars, and Green Minestrone

The sky was a flat grey during my early evening walk today, the sort of grey that precedes a snowstorm, interrupted--just overhead--by a row of dark grey and white streaks that reminded me, oddly, of scars.

One year ago today we began working remotely; I was two days out of surgery for my broken foot, and things were incredibly uncertain. Each day my family would track the spread of the virus on the Johns Hopkins site, wondering when we'd get to go back to "normal." If only we'd known. Then again, maybe it was better that we didn't know: the grey stretching out before us may have been too immense to fathom.

The last time I wrote in this space was also the morning before I concussed myself, walking at night through a particularly dark section of town, tripping on god only knows what, and hitting my head on a mailbox or a telephone pole or something that has left me, five months later, with a series of lasting symptoms: ringing in my ears, vision that is not quite right, sleeplessness, sinuses that don't seem to want to quit running. The palpitations and the dizziness are gone, but I find myself frustrated by what remains, and wonder how long it will take to heal. Some scars, like the one on my foot, are visible; others, like the one in my brain, are not.

The scars in the sky tonight made me think of the visible and invisible scars left by the pandemic, one year later. Unimaginable losses of life, of jobs. Anxiety. Depression. Lasting illness. But our scars make us who we are. They interrupt the flat expanse of grey with something else, reminders of something deeper, reminders that we are more than what we see on the surface.

I've made more soups than I can count this past year, some for us, some for others. I hope they have made the scars a little easier to bear.

Green Minestrone

2 t. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. fresh thyme (1/2 t. dry)
1 bay leaf
6 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 lb. waxy red potatoes (4 to 5 small potatoes), cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. small-shaped pasta, like shells or elbow macaroni
6 ounces greens, like spinach, kale, or chard, cut into ribbons
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, like Great Northern, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional, to serve

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and 1/4 t. of salt, and cook until the onion and celery are soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes, and 1 t. of salt to the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Add the green beans and simmer for another 5 to 10 minuets, until both the potatoes and the green beans are tender.
While the soup is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

When the vegetables are tender, stir the greens and the white beans into the soup. Simmer until the greens are wilted and tender, 1 to 3 minutes. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, add a scoop of pasta to each bowl and ladle the soup over top. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over top, if using. Store pasta and soup leftovers separately; they will keep refrigerated for 1 week.

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  1. I'm so sorry to hear you've been dealing with both a broken foot and a compromised brain. That's been several months ago...those symptoms sound no-fun at all. Not life-threatening, for sure, but definitely quality-of-life affecting.

    Love your thoughts on scars. Very moving and deep and true.

  2. P.S. I wish for you ongoing healing. xo

    1. <3 Thanks, Lori. Definitely grateful for the things I have, which are many. Unfortunately, patience has never been my strong point. And now I wonder, "what WAS it like before? Did I always see this way? Maybe I'm imagining that it was better?" That's probably another post altogether! Hope you are holding up OK, friend.

  3. I'm sorry you are still dealing with these symptoms, that is really hard. But this post was lovely, and I will make that soup---it sounds very comforting.

    1. Thanks, Ana. <3 The soup is a good one for spring ... there's green out there, too, which gives me hope for healing of all kinds for all of us!

  4. Ugh, Justine! I had a concussion 10+ years ago. It took me a long time to feel somewhat normal again, & every now & then, I still get a little ache around the spot where I hit my head. :p I hope you are feeling at least a little better soon!

    And thanks for the recipe! I have a tomato allergy, so regular minestrone is something I can't eat. But this sounds delicious -- and, for me, safe to eat, if I use the chicken broth! :)

    1. Thanks, loribeth...it's comforting to know that others have taken a long time, too. It's funny ... sometimes I wonder if it was always like this and I've just forgotten, but the ringing in my ears is definitely NOT like it was before. I miss the quiet. Here's to slow and steady healing. And to soup. :) You will enjoy this!

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  6. Ugh, I didn't realise you'd been through all this. I'm sorry! Invisible scars - they hurt just as much as the visible ones, but you're right, they also make us who we are. I'm hoping soon that will be a memory, rather than issues you actually have to deal with. I'm sure that soup will help.

    1. Thanks, Mali. I think it has been a scarring year for so many people ... I hope you are finding gentle spots!


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