Friday, October 17, 2008

Autumn Love Soup

I first fell for my husband Stephen on our second date, although it would take a marriage proposal and several months of anxiety to accept the fact that it was love at first hike. We went on an out-of-the-city-journey together (my idea) with his doberman Bukie, who was named after the Russian Anarchist Joseph Buchanan (he is that kind of guy). We drove slowly up the NY State Parkway to Bear Mountain in his old Dodge Dart, which was rusty but spotless and Steve had installed a beautiful floral frabric to the interior roof. I brought a mixed tape of obscure folk and punk songs for us to listen to (I am that kind of girl). It was fall and the air was New England crisp and when we started hiking, the leaves that lay around us like a crunchy carpet made me feel almost high and very alive. This mixed with the lack of sleep from a previous late night left an almost hallucinogenic haze to the whole day.

Steve was smart and attractive (skinny legs, intense eyes, thick lips), but untrustworthy in his baggy Carheart pants and an old sweater. His reputation (women fell for him, and often) preceded him. As we walked and talked, sometimes out of breath, I fell more and more under his spell. Since discovering postmodern theory as an undergrad, I had been, perhaps naively, looking for others who also saw the world as unfixed, unsettled; someone who would want to question and deconstruct everything, but also who wanted to build something in its place. Not merely stasis and nihilism, but growth in the midst of chaos. Steve was someone who felt the same way. But I had been dissapointed by the young and intellectual before. It was New York, afterall, and well-read, delicate, smart men are a dime a dozen in this town.

Around lunchtime, Steve produced not only a lovely bottle of wine, which we sipped but did not finish, but a picnic of mozzarella sandwiches with tomato and pesto. I was feeling the seduction. We kissed on the top of a hill while the dog tried to tear apart a tree branch. Afterward, full and sleepy, we got lost trying to get out of the forest. Four hours later, we emerged at the car dizzy from talk, the kind of crazy conversations you usually have in your dorm room. (The prerequisite, of course is that you are high on mushrooms or vast amounts of marijuana, but alas, we were sober.) Somehow we ended up actually having that conversation. The one where you take things apart and play with ideas and try to find the meaning of it all. Geeky, you might say. Well yes, I suppose it was. But it was also incredibly romantic. Maybe we've lost that in our world.

Anyways, what we came up with was not really sublime, nor brilliant, just simply that when it comes to love, men and women need to rewrite the script of what we do together. The old dialog, the settings, even the props, they just don't work any more, no matter how many chick-flicks and self-help books say otherwise. Women get pissed off and men sulk and women write books like "The Bitch in the House." The old script is like "the Boy in the Plastic Bubble" TV special. It's not only no longer meaningful, it is boring. We wanted something much more colorful and real, like an Almovodar film. While not ever speaking about each other, or the possible relationship we might begin, we said, love could be contingent, contextual, based on real things and wants and desires, not outmoded ideas of what is right, or what should be. Love could be about people growing and people being messy, not a fantasy of love. Heavy for a second date I know, but Steve and I are both exceedingly dramatic and being writers, well, writerly.

Fall always reminds me of this hike and brings me back to the time when we set out to redefine love and ended up with what amounts to a rather ordinary marriage and family. Life is funny that way. When we met, everything seemed more..intense. Now Steve has less hair and I am carrying 15 extra pounds. We bitch at each other, and pass gass and floss and have bad breath. We stink. We are boring, cranky, neurotic, self-indulgent. Ten years later, the reality is rather mundane. And yet...and yet. We still love to talk to each other, to take things apart, to strive to live somewhat meaningful lives. We still try to--and fail--to make it up as we go, to let go of the right way, to continually rewrite our script. We are indeed, still madly in love.

And somehow I always come back to a meal we share, a bottle of wine, a little conversation, maybe a British mystery to watch together. It feels right somehow, the everydayness of it. Recently I made this soup. Reminds me of the earth, of autumn, the easiness of our life together. Just some dry beans, some herbs, a bit of sausage freshly made by our butcher. When you are young, you want everything to be so grand. As I get older, the simple pleasure of something warm like a beautiful soup shared with the man I love seems quite satisfying. And so I share this recipe with you.

Ceci Bean Soup
Adapted from Mark Bitten's NY Time's Column and Blog

  • 1 1/2 cups dried ceci beans (chickpeas)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 3 sprigs rosemary or thyme
  • 1 medium to large carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 celery stalk, peeled and diced small
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced small
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound sausage, grilled or broiled, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
How to Cook

  • 1. Rinse ceci beans in water. Place in a large pot and cover with water.Cover pot, bring to a quick boil, turn off heat and allow beans to soak for one hour.
  • Drain beans and discard soak water.
  • Add sliced garlic and rosemary or thyme to beans and coer with fresh water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, partly covered, for at least 1 hour, or until cecis are fairly tender. Add additional water if necessary, and skim any foam that rises to the surface.
  • Scoop out herbs and add carrot, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Continue to cook until cecis and vegetables are soft, at least 20 minutes longer.
  • Using a handblender directly in the pot, blend the soup, but only partially, leaving most of the soup rather chunky.
  • Add the minced garlic and sausage, and reheat, adding more water if the mixture is too thick. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve, drizzled with the olive oil.
Enjoy with people you love.