Monday, October 25, 2010

Soham: Unstuffed Bell Pepper and Cabbage Soup

Soham.  This was our opening mantra in my yoga class this week.  It means "I am that" ... and, our teacher explained, it's the "I am" that we are when we strip everything else away, get rid of our roles, our baggage, and return to the essence of what makes us us.  Not "I am a daughter."  Or "I am a runner."  Or even "I am tired, hungry, angry, frustrated" ... whatever we may be.  "I am That."  Daughter, runner, colleague ... all of these identities, she said, are transient.  The yogis say that nothing transient is real ... the only things that are real are the things that are eternally unchanging.

I had to think about that one.  I have always been and will always be a daughter... but the manifestation of that role will change over time.  It seems that I've always been a student, or worked at a university, but of course, that doesn't define me, either.  Those of us who have been marked "infertile" ... we know that while that's biology, it doesn't define us, either.  Our role in the universe has to be more than that.  What does define me?  As I closed my eyes, I tried to imagine the core of me that was unchanging.  And I imagined a white flame, burning brightly.  Something I might call a pure essence.

The Soham mantra has been called the universal mantra because of the fact that its vibration is the sound of the breath, and everybody breathes: sooooo is the sound of inhalation, and hummm is the sound of exhalation.  The essence of our being: the breath.

I like this mantra, first, because it's so easy: if you become aware of your breath, you can imagine it sounding like "sooooooo ... hummmm" over and over (really! try this, wherever you are right now); and second, because it reminds us that we don't need to be anything other than who and what we are.  If you're anything like me, you are constantly trying to live up to a panoply of expectations, or "shoulds," or whatever ... you measure yourself with the yardsticks of others.  Soham reminds us that we are That.  Not that we're becoming That, but we already are.  We are ourselves, essence, part of the amazing, beautiful, unexplainable, frustrating-as-all-hell (to our small and impatient human brains) Universe.  And that while it's only human to have goals and aspirations (where would we be as a species if we didn't? certainly, like "surrender," this is not about "giving up"), we need to do so with full acceptance of who and what and where we are right now, at this unique moment in time.

It's sort of like "Self, Unplugged."

To go with the mantra, I've got an "soup, unstuffed" for you today.  There are lots of weeks that I wish my CSA box were something other than what it is ... that it was full of apples, or whatever I feel like eating that week.  Stuffed acorn squash.  Dark chocolate covered almonds.  A Vosges bar.  Pie.  (I do promise that this blog will return to it's "half baked" origins soon!)  But you know what?  It is what it is.  And if we allow things -- including ourselves -- to be what they are, and to really see them and look past the frustrations and flaws that are the mutable surface, we may experience them differently, better ... even if it is cabbage, again.

Unstuffed Bell Pepper and Cabbage Soup

5 tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced (reserve a ¼ cup for garnish)
½ head cabbage, cut into shred
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked green/brown lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
1 ½ T dried oregano
Sea salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Olive oil

Cut the tomatoes in half and toss with a bit of olive oil.  Roast in a 450°F oven for an hour or until caramelized on top.  Transfer to a blender and blitz.  [Mine yielded 2 cups of tomato puree]

While the tomatoes are roasting, add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, bell pepper and cabbage until softened.  Add the tomato paste and oregano.  Cook for a few minutes longer.  Add in the rice and lentils and mix well.  Set aside until the tomatoes are ready.

Add the tomato puree and vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Let cook for about 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper. 

Garnish with dried or fresh oregano and, if you like, finely diced green bell pepper.
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  1. Hi. I am visiting from ICWL. What a lovely, lovely post. I love it! The philosophical juxtaposed with the food & recipies. Perfect. Thank you. I love cabbage!

  2. You've given me much to think about (as you often do). The soup looks so delicious!


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