the story of soup

[Guidelines for homemade nourishing soup as requested.]
“Every gumbo tells a story” -John Besh, My New Orleans
All soup can tell a story. I do not use a recipe but a narrative, a theme, I group flavors together according to taste families. Often the family is a geographical region or some other style of cooking, such as “Italian”, Mexican”, “Mediterranean” or “Hippie”. So I cannot provide actual recipes for these 5 nourishing soups but I will cheerfully provide flavor families and guidelines.
For years I hated soup! This was due to working in a diner and watching people make it. Shudder. I think some people see soup as a way to use up leftovers and don’t give it their 100% best effort. But I have come around to the realization that it can be lovely, a good way to stretch meat, to use cheaper cuts of meat and to feed a crowd. I also see it as a a deeply nourishing and comforting food, warming for the long cold winter season here in the Northeast.
The base of all my soup and stew is real broth. Made from bones, carcasses, organs, alliums, and/or fungi. Bone broth is a basic human food which is easy to make and affordable, get a crockpot and just do it. The 2 bone broths I am most likely to make are beef and chicken but really you can use almost anything. Add salt. OK so that is your base.Then you choose your theme. A theme is a way to group flavors together and make the ingredients sing harmoniously. For example, eggplant parmesan and soy sauce don’t go together. Chili and lime does go together. We will discuss French onion soup, Pozole, Pho, Portuguese kale soup and classic Chicken soup.
As you can see, this is an international crowd here, and I should mention that they are not all my traditions. I respectfully share my take on these foods, but they are “in the style of”/inspired by and in NO way are they authentic to their homeland.
I suggest going to small so-called “ethnic” markets and diverse farmer’s markets to find ingredients for cooking. I love small markets and I encourage people of all backgrounds to explore them. However, please be aware that it’s important to be polite and respectful of other people’s traditions and cultures. Never make fun of unusual items that you see there, never ever make jokes aloud about foods or other items you find strange. Keep in mind that you might see something as strange but it may be someone’s valued tradition. Additionally, don’t be a pain in the ass. Noone wants to walk you through what stuff is-buy a cookbook, google it or just buy something and try it for yourself. And finally, I want to address the word “exotic”–it’s a huge peeve for me. Such a relative term! You may not be used to certain ingredients, but that does not make it exotic, weird, or funny. It just means you could stand to get out more.
So first, French onion soup. Wicked cheap. Make beef bone broth. Caramelize as many onions as you can–like, a lot. You can use any alliums here-sweet onions, leeks, shallots, red onions, whole cloves of garlic. Cut them up and roast on low for a few hours (1-3) with butter and salt/pepper. Those 2 items basically make up the whole thing, it sounds simple but it is not, caramelization is a miraculous process by which normal onions a returned into nature’s candy. you could add a little meat, a splash of red wine, fungi, and melty cheese on or not on a piece of bread.
Pho-It is a Vietnamese noodle soup. Let’s talk about beef, but it can be chicken, seafood, pork. Whatever you want. Make the bone broth. I simmer some Southeast Asian spices in the broth but you don’t have to. (for example, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, garlic) I cook the meat or tofu(plus onions) separately and throw the rice or bean thread noodles into the broth at the last minute.The real magic is in the assembly. Scoop out some noodles, ladle a bunch of broth, and pile your cooekd meat on. At the table, you add fish sauce, chili sauce, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, limes, scallions, thai basil, cilantro, mint, ground peanuts.
This is absolutely to taste and the way YOU like it is the right way!
Pozole is Mexican and it is one of my favorite foods ever. I start with a good broth. Put it to the side. See a theme here? Then I saute garlic and onions, lots, maybe a few peppers, poblano perhaps? or whatever you have. I hate green peppers but you might like them. Here would be a good time to point out that sauteeing is good cooking. I never put liquid in a pot and throw stuff in. I always saute first!!! use butter, lard, olive oil, whatever non-grody oil you like. Put your alliums in and revel in the aromatherapy. then add meat-in this case I like chorizo and/or chicken but you can use whatever you have. I’ll add sweet potatoes, black beans, zucchini, tomatoes, (fire roasted if possible) and of course pozole which is a chubby chewy corn. Add the broth once this has all melded. I also add a shitload of Mexican oregano–this is Lippia graveolens not Origanum vulgare. Yes, you can use whatever oregano you have, just dump tons of it in there. Maybe some cumin.
Again, at the table one makes it custom, you can pile on onions, chili sauce, jalapenos-pickled or raw, crema or sour cream, limes, cilantro, whatever you like. Except soy sauce.
Kale soup-broth is important here too, but not as 100 % vital as the others. Saute garlic, onions, and other alliums if desired.

dino kale ribbons
dino kale ribbons
I really do appreciate truth in advertising.
I really do appreciate truth in advertising.
Pho: you add the stuff in your bowl.
Pho: you add the stuff in your bowl.
Previously roasted Chicken carcasses simmering.
Previously roasted Chicken carcasses simmering.
IMG_5582
saute first, add delicious broth second!!
saute first, add delicious broth second!!
then add meat, chorizo works great here too, or a little pork, or some chicken, Whatever. No, I don’t have any “vegan options”, that’s just not my thing. Get a luscious saute going, butter and onions and stuff, and add a ton of kale. I am a huge fan of dino kale but I’m not gonna tell you what kind of kale to eat. It’s ideal if you cut it into ribbons. Add potatoes, white beans, maybe some zucchini? And then broth, hopefully good broth. My kids like it when I put little star-shaped pasta in there but by no means do you have to do so. Simmer it for as long as you can stand to wait. It’s extra good with swiss cheese melted on it.
And finally, chicken soup. All hail chicken soup!! Honestly, to me it’s a vehicle for gelatinous goo and piles of garlic. That gelatinous goo lubes your joints and makes your hair shiny. So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, saute a bunch of garlic and onions in butter or some other greasy stuff. Add vegetables such as celery, carrots, rutabagas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leeks, and/or cucumbers. (not really.) I like a tiny bit of tomato in there. If you’re wicked fancy this would be a good place for dumplings or matzo balls but any kind of noodle or rice is fine. If you’re Paleo, add some kinda lardballs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, maybe some herbes de provence or something, hopefully you know what you like. If you’re ill you might want to use extra antimicrobial stuff here such as oregano, thyme, lemon thyme, monarda, rosemary, and so forth. You can also use the base and switch it up to be Italian-ish(more tomatoes, more oregano, tortellini), Mexican-ish (add black beans, cumin, spicy stuff), vaguely Asian-ish (add ginger, soy sauce, scallions).

darkness and light in my foraging grounds

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First, a disclaimer. Maintain your critical thinking at all times. I make no claim for the safety or positive ID of these or any other plant on my blog, Do not trust the internet, and do not trust me. QUESTION EVERYTHING!!!!!!! please be aware of the dangers of overharvesting all plants and fungi, most especially those which are difficult to cultivate. Never take more than you need/will use, respect and appreciate these plants, and commit to helping their community and protecting their home.

I have been harvesting Ghost Pipe (Monotropa Uniflora) and Black Trumpets(Craterellus cornucopioides) lately. The two don’t have any relation that I know of yet they grow near each other, both in the shady forest on rocky hilly ground, as if they were a diorama of darkness and light telling us something about the world. I enjoy foraging, wandering about, looking for patterns in the leaf litter that indicates a fruiting, nibbling wild berries and listening to the collective birdsong. I love the deep shade, the canine company, the steep foothills.
We often call unusual plants or insects “otherworldly”–as if our own world does not provide enough stunning, amazing, mysterious and bizarre miracles?! I do find that most of us could use the message to open up to the unusual, the “otherworldly”, not in the sense of “fairies”, gods or shapeshifters but merely the reality of mycelium, symbiosis, codependence, relationships, and the way that in reality there is so much more going on than most of us acknowledge.
Everything from compost to mycoremediation, beneficial bacteria to natural cycles underlying every visible and not-easily-visible living thing. It is a joy to me to know that we are living atop and amongst unknowable natural worlds.

I do eat Black Trumpets and make medicine with Ghost pipe, but there are already excellent writings about both (see links.) so I won’t waste your time with those details.

So, let’s talk about the pipe. This plant has many names, but I'm going with Ghost Pipe becasue it has a translucence that one might find "ghostly"–it's seriously weird. One of few plants with no clorophyll, it is a mycotrophic wildflower in the Heath family—yes, same family as blueberries!–and lives in intimate relationship with the forest floor.
Ghost pipe is considered a plant with medicinal properties. Great information about use can be read here:

We humans can get so easily stuck in our own patterns, loops, processes and ways of looking at the world. We can seek out, disrupt, and welcome the unusual to break us out of that stuckness. But these disruptions are just catalysts, the curiousity must be there, underlying, waiting to be activated like mycelium waiting for rain. It’s there, We must be willing to allow it in.

a different view of urban foraging: winter edition

"are you gonna eat that?"
“are you gonna eat that?”
hibiscus flowers
hibiscus flowers
galangal root
galangal root
lemongrass
lemongrass
devotion
devotion
smoked bluefish
smoked bluefish
cinnamon
cinnamon
RECAO
RECAO

As much as I love being outside in nature I enjoy a different type of foraging too. I like to go from one little market to another in my hometown (Providence!), usually on foot, pushing my rickety-ass little market cart and collecting treasures. That is what food is, treasure, worth its weight in gold really. Cause you can’t eat gold, baby, and food is devotion.  Food is my expression of love, my reason for gathering friends and family, my voice.

I like the so-called “ethnic” markets the best, the little places. I like the people, the stuff, the skills needed to find what I’m looking for–or didn’t  know I was looking for. I like the dust-covered monkey salves and knobby roots, the tiny dried fish and the salamis hanging from the ceiling. I like butchers that say “hey, mama” and buildings painted hot pink. I like mysterious pastes, stuffed peppers, tamales, boxes of dried peppers and stacks of tortillas.

I like chubby tomatillos, eryngium foetidum and the guy who effortlessly hacks up the whole roast pig with a butcher knife. i like chicken feet, i like live crabs and live ducklings in a box. chicory coffee, korean ginseng and slurpy noodles. i like old teapots and banana flowers and tubs of bean curd.

this satisfies my need to forage, my need to stock up and try new things. I just made a vat of recaito and a jar of curry paste. Bones are simmering with cinnamon, star anise, shallots and ginger for pho. nothing cures my cabin fever like good food, spicy, sweet, fun, healthy, delicious food made with love and a little adventure.

trumpets of death and horns of plenty

ah, november first, a turning of the wheel, a look back at those who have come before us, considering our place on the continuum of life. darkness falling earlier, inward turning.  i had a conversatoin this morning with someone who “hates darkness” and only likes sunshine. and it disturbed me. i have always taken it as a given that there can be no light without the darkness. the spectrum of life  is amazing and fruitful. and darkness feeds our art and poetry, drives our sensuality and sexuality, and provides a counter to stupid cheerful crap.

so i did what i always do when i get disturbed-i took a walk in the woods. i went foraging, like my great-grandmother used to do. not everything can be fixed with a ramble, but most of my emotional states can be unraveled and re-raveled that way. and the forest gave me a bouquet.

un bouquet de mort

yes, the forest provided me with a day of the dead bouquet to answer my questions about darkness. praying to your ancestors is good. eating them is better.

the hatred and fear of darkness is a hatred and fear of the self. you do not have to “like” your dark side. but it helps to acknowledge that it exists. you do not have to “like” your ancestors. but it helps to acknowledge that they came before. you do not have to “like” fungi. but they will help you turn back into earth. mycelium underlies all that we see and all that surrounds us. fungi remediates what we leave behind, literally breaking down the detritus of the plant and animal kingdoms and turning it into incredible shapes and colors and flavors.

eat your lessons.

fungi are a literal and tangible representation of the cycles which bind all life on this earth together. i can think of little more feared by modern people. i can think of few wild things less understood by modern people.

craterellus!

the black trumpet brings me joy, sensual pleasure, reconnection and the uncomfortable lesson that though i may now be doing the harvest and the eating, trumpets of death will be eating me someday. this cycle informs nearly all of my emotional work.  i find it simultaneously comforting and mortifying that we are on a crash course with spores and worms. my life’s work is to ease my heart towards welcoming that inevitablity, that darkness.  but in the meantime, we hunt, we gather, we feast, and we share our light with each other to get through the darkest times.

 

gone foraging
up close and personal

 

slaying the serpents of health anxiety #2!

1. use bitters!!! whether a tincture of bitter herbs, raw or cooked bitter greens, a bitter aperitif before dinner–bitters promote good digestion and assimilation.

2. F you raw food fruitarians! look, i try to be tolerant. but please stop promoting the fact that packaged “live” food snacks that cost 8.00 each are in any way reasonable. this is elitist caca. if all-raw food hapens to agree with your consitution, well, great. but the mere thought of eating a cucumber tofu sprouts wrap on a cold and rainy mid-october day literally chills my soul.

3. is there any possible way all humans could have evolved to NEED coconut oil every day? no, there is not.

4. is there any way “rescue remedy”, grapefruit seed extract, apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth or manuka honey  could possibly cure everything? no, there is not.

5. do you need to make kids separate food? less tasty food? hell no. model adventurous eating! please, friends, observe my 9-year-old son eat copious kale and octopus sushi. without a bribe. shhh, he thinks it’s “normal”.

6. gluten free has been a godsend to those with celiac disease. however, beware of replacing wheat with gluten-free junk food. it tends to be high glycemic and full of sugar. good for a treat, but not what i’d build my pantry on.

7. all food trends, from gluten-free to vegan to paleo and more-are what you make of them. some people seem to thrive on rules when it comes to food…but remeber, noone has all the answers. (including me!)

8. we do need to slay the myth that food and medicine are to be kept separate. food is medicine is food. food is poison is food.

9. if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

10. don’t look to “superfoods”, turdy little vitamin bars , packaged drinks and exotic snacks as your main food sources. that stuff is crap. nourishment does not come just from eating good foods. it also comes from the growing, the foraging, the cooking, the sharing, the plotting and mmm-ing.

11. advertising is manipulative. they are trying to sell you something. your skepticism should know no bounds. they do not care about you. they want your money.

12. a little wine with dinner is fun.

 

nutrient dense meals for people.

so, time to share a few ideas for nutrient dense meals.  get rid of the filler, get rid of the crap. avoid sugar as much as possible, especially in liquid form. i hesitate to embrace any “ism” in my eating, i am an omnivore and rules don’t seem to reflect the variety life offers us, such as an occasional shot of tequila, blooming onion or white flour baguette.   however, “mostly healthy” is a slogan to live by! anyway, how about some examples?

kale salad

my favorite way to eat kale. it is dino kale, cut into ribbons, with toasted nuts, sharp/hard cheese, raisins or cranberries, raw onion of some type and an oil/vinegar or oil/lemon dressing.

i also like kale sauteed with bacon or mashed with avocado and cilantro and lime juice. do not fear kale. just eat it.

happy meal

this meal is sardines, halved tomatoes, sweet potatoes cooked in butter, and sauteed wild mushrooms. no filler. no crap.

dinnah

here we have meatballs, whole wheat linguini with a black trumpet cream sauce, kale salad and fresh tomatoes from the garden.

snacky lunch

this meal was boiled eggs, green salad, roasted fingerling potatoes, french lentils, chicken sausage and more tmatoes! with a side of stinky cheese and flax crackers.

salmon!

this one is smoked salmon bits, fresh red raspberries, a zucchini muffin made with almond flour, and baby carrots.

yes, we eat like this most of the time, yes, my kids eat it. this is how i deal with my pcos and insulin resistance as well as keep my energy up, and i truly believe this method reduces whining. yes, it is more expensive than macaroni and cheese every day. in winter i make a lot more stews and braises. we grow some of our own and enjoy all aspects of growing, foraging, tasting, and preparing food.  food  is not an afterthought. it is medicine. it is a gift. it is life.

don’t hate me because i’m beautiful!

postscript: yes, i ate some of this blooming onion and didn’t die. don’t be a martyr!

live nude girls!

just kidding, welcome to my nerdy photo gallery of late summer fungi! i am going to avoid naming the fungi because i do not think using some random person’s blog to identify mushrooms is reasonable and i do not want to be responsible if you snort a destroying angel and your liver implodes. get a book, or a stack of books, or go ask a slug.

trippy santa fungi
brightly colored fungi
my personal favorite fungi
spooky fungi
modest fungi
unidentified fungal object
her worshipfulness
lil’ fruity friend
birch buddy

picnics are good for you!

Image

today i exalt the picnic. it seems that like many old fashioned pasttimes, deemed “dorky”, “dirty” or just plain old inconvenient, the picnic has become a rare event. eating outside is still with us, though only on “nice” days between 69 and 74 degrees. i am not talking about perching my ass on some crappy resin outdoor furniture. i am not talking about sitting in a cloud of toxic bug spray trying not to breathe. i am talking about contact with the earth, wielding my pocket knife dangerously, everything’s blowing away, birds and honeybees come over to check us out.

still life with shadow

i like full contact interactions with my picnic. i like to find things and eat them.  i like stinky cheese and a big chunk of smoked bluefish, a jar of red wine and an oyster in the parking lot. i like a juicy peach, smoked almonds, violets, pickled ramps, dandelion leaves and beef jerky.

be prepared

i like the hunger that comes from hiking 2 hours into the perfect spot. or  not…perhaps it is just the backyard.

portable meat stuff

i like going to little markets and finding little edibles to delight my friends and family with. when we think we are done, and i whip out some little squares of super dark chocolate and the air is fresh, and we wash our hands and sporks in a stream , get a little cleanup help from our dogs….now, THAT is a picnic.

lyds

outdoors really can make everything better, including food and flavor, friends and family. so throw a sausage and some cornichons in your backpack and hit the trail, buddy. see where yor footmobile takes you, properly provisioned. and don’t forget to bring a napkin.

charles finds oysters

sexy plants

squash

for once i don’t have that much to say–because these plants speak for themselves, they are compeltely sensual and a joy to be around.

tomatillo
blue surprise
monarda citriodora
tobacco volunteer
pear!
eggplant flower
hops vines
lettuce
chickweed
pink/street
toadflax

urban foraging-morus and tilia

how delightful that food and medicine are literally all around us.

mulberry

there are 3 types of mulberries that i know of-black, more like dark purple, white, and a hybrid which is kinda lavender.

the fruit does not last long at all so must be eaten as quickly as possible, which many kids don’t mind.

lyds

something about foraging is like scratching a millienium-old itch which is just not being addressed by our current lifestyle.

lyds w/ lavender hybrid mulberry

yes, these trees grew in-gasp-city soil. i would not say i am completely not worried about contamination in food. however, i am much more worried about the food in price rite than the mulberries in my neighborhhood. actually, i am much more worried about war, nuclear meltdowns, pcbs, pharmaceuticals, poverty and crap air quality than a little something that may be on this mulberry. especially since fruits are not major metal accumulators.

le harvest

additionally, we have been enjoying standing beneath lindens-a very common providence street tree-with honeybees buzzing all around, the smell and the flowerness somehow both stimulating and soothing.

tilia/linden