Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Longing and Potato-Vegetable Chowder

I miss Fall. I mean actual Fall, as in Autumn, in which the weather changes and the leaves change color and there are good apples and that smell that comes right before the first night of frost mixes with the lingering smell of the diatomaceous earth drying in the vineyards…Okay. I know lots of people didn’t grow up with that smell, but the rest of it is common enough to Northeasterners.
I miss that. I long for it, even. I want to put on a sweater and sip hot cider and make a huge pot of soup and make my kid wear a winter jacket over her Halloween costume, but none of that really happens in Northern California.

Oh sure, people wear winter jackets when it’s 55 degrees and I hear that there’s one street in town that has trees that change color…for a day or so, but it’s just not the same.
It was 80 degrees in the sun today. For the love of…

I don’t want to insult where I live. I really like it, in fact, and that’s the problem. So many of the people, places and things that I love are spread across different time-zones and even continents. It’s just not possible to have everything that makes me happy just down the street, much to the annoyance of my family.

I don’t think that’s unusual in the modern world. We do what we think we need to do to carve out our little existence and give it meaning. Sometimes that takes us far from home or makes us work crazy jobs/hours, or spend a fortune of time and youth on education that gets us nowhere…

Sorry, I’m getting off track.

So this disparate life is tough sometimes and it leads to a certain kind of longing in me: A longing for a completeness that is always just out of reach. 

I’m generally a practitioner of the ‘your world is what you make of it’ kind of attitude, within reason. But, sometimes I think I want a little too much to construct my world to suit my various longings. Sometimes that works. For example, the soup I’m going to describe below was a win in the ‘can I at least pretend it’s fall for a day between bouts of sunny, 80-degrees’? 

Sometimes it does not work, however, as in a failed Taco Pie (that shall nevermore be mentioned) that I constructed a few weeks ago out of a longing for some kind of homey casserole food.
And obviously, I use food as a pacifier in these moments of longing and sentimental vulnerability, and  yes, there are several industries that will vilify that practice, but that’s just how it is. So they can take their less-than-5%-body-fat-asses and…


So I couldn’t handle the idea of putting up Fall decorations in warm, slightly humid, upper-70s temps, but I could rally a chowder. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
This recipe is weird. I don’t think I’ve ever liked chowder, but I suddenly had this very clear thought that I absolutely HAD to make one for dinner.

Potato-Vegetable Chowder


4 medium potatoes, peeled and 1/2 inch diced
1 c. Yellow split peas, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 c. Dried leeks (or actual onions, preferably sauteed, if you have them lying around)
2 bay leaves
3/4 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, gr. Beans)
1/2 c. Unsweetened soymilk
1/4 cup pea protein
1 tbsp. Cornstarch
Salt and pepper

Nota bene: Ok, yes, that says ‘pea protein’. I know that’s a very fussy ingredient and you can leave it out entirely. We needed a little more protein in our dinner, so that’s why I added it. And, in case anyone was wondering, putting it in your oatmeal requires a LOT of brown sugar (or maple syrup, if that’s the team you play for) to de-split-pea the flavor.


1. Cook potatoes, peas, leeks, broth and bay leaves until the peas and potatoes are very tender or falling apart. I use a pressure cooker, so this takes 10 minutes. I used to be a soup-on-the-stove-all-day kind of person until I got my first pressure cooker and I got over that shit.
2. Blenderize about 1/3 of the soup and return to the pot. Add the frozen vegetables and simmer until they are done to your preferred doneness.
3. Mix the protein, cornstarch and soymilk in a small dish until smooth.
4. Add the thickener mixture to the soup and simmer for a few more minutes.

This chowder was unexpectedly good. Even the Redheaded Vegan liked it, and he’s not one for creamy soup. And I think that, as far as cooking therapy goes, making something that your loved ones enjoy is a very satisfying thing. For that moment, that sense of feeding, nourishing and pleasing those you care about the most just might fill one of those little holes that  tears open when you or your life has stretched you too thin. 
Yes, I know, that’s bad, right? Filling emotional voids with food is the #1 WORST THING YOU CAN DO in a society where most of us are fat and never worry about when/where we will eat our next meal, isn’t it? 
Well, maybe, but I do it and I bet most people do. I can’t be everywhere I want to be all at the same time. I can’t bring back lost loved ones or un-make bad decisions. But hell, if I can make a meal that makes someone I care about say “mmmmm”, things just don’t suck that badly for a little while.
So, it will be Fall for a moment in my mind, a mystical season where it makes sense to make soup on a hot day and put up fake foliage that doesn’t exist for a thousand miles. And I’ll do it and listen to my Redheads say ‘mmmm’ and not worry for a little while.

Serious Product Plug
For about 2 years, I’ve been using this really good vegetable bouillon/broth concentrate from “Better than Bouillon”. It’s their No-Chicken Base. This really has made the difference between Okay and GREAT cooking. So many vegetable broths or bouillon cubes are just blech. They’re too salty or just too onion-heavy or acidic (for the tomato-based carton-type). This brand really does have an edge over everything else I’ve tried and I highly recommend it.
There. I’m done.

1 comment:

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