The Story Goes

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I love a good story.  A bedtime story, a love story, a “you’ll never believe this” story.  A good story teaches, enlightens, entertains, and suspends all time and place — drawing you in so that only the story matters.

A few weeks ago, I attended the wedding of a childhood friend’s daughter.  The bride and groom, the stars at the center of a classic “boy meets girl” love story, were radiant, their joy contagious. Their story is just unfolding, the binding of that book barely cracked.

Two elderly gentlemen who live in my neighborhood walk together every day.  In even the most inhospitable weather, they travel a familiar route, leaning in to one another.  They share unhurried conversation, a relaxed exchange of stories, the details of which only they know.  I observe from a distance and wonder what the story of their friendship is.

One of the reasons I love writing this blog is it gives me a chance to share stories and sometimes, if I’m lucky, to be gifted with a story in return. There is meaning in all our stories, new chapters to write every day. Our stories make us real, and as the Skin Horse so wisely says in The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 

I hope that this holiday season provides opportunities to share old stories and create new ones — stories that will last for always.

Here is a recipe for Winter Cabbage and Farro Soup that feels like an old familiar story.  It is earthy, warm and oh so comforting.  Thanks to Josh McFadden, author Six Seasons for providing the foundation and inspiration.

Ingredients
1 lb. cabbage (I used savoy but any kind will do.)
Olive oil
1 med. onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 sprig rosemary or thyme
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2/3 c. farro
4 c. vegetable or chicken broth (store-bought or homemade)
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut out cabbage core and roughly chop it.  Cut the leaves into fine shreds by slicing through the chunk of cabbage.

Heat 1/4 c. olive oil into a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and cabbage core, pinch of salt and some pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently until the onion starts to brown and become fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 5 until the garlic is also soft.

Add the shredded cabbage leaves and rosemary or thyme.  Cover the pot and allow the steam to soften the leaves, tossing occasionally.  Cook, covered, until the cabbage is very tender and sweet, 20-30 minutes.  When the cabbage is ready, stir in the vinegar and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Meanwhile, heat approximately 2-3 tbsp. olive oil in another large pot, add the farro and cook, stirring constantly until the farro is lightly toasted and fragrant, approximately 5-6 minutes.  Scrape the toasted farro into the cabbage pot and add the broth.  Adjust the heat to a slow simmer and leave alone for approximately 25 minutes – until the farro is tender.

Stir in the lemon juice and ladle the soup into bowls.  Shower each bowl with grated Parmigiano cheese and enjoy!

Change is Gonna’ Come

The other day, I took my two dogs on a detour from our usual walk around the neighborhood. It was one of those unseasonably mild late-Winter days, so I grabbed the opportunity for some extra time in the sun and a much-needed dose of Vitamin K.The dogs responded just as I expected them to. As soon as we veered off our regular course, Kirby put the brakes on and Sable blithely took off for parts unknown.

A little more background about my dogs: This is Kirby. He is the wise old man. Sweet as sugar. A few months back, we learned he has cancer. The worst part of pet ownership, the inevitability of having to say goodbye, is now staring us in the face.  But he is strong and he is here, and we are grateful for every day.This is Sable. She is a whirling dervish. Too smart for her own good and always looking for the party. She keeps life interesting.So, my furry kids behaved exactly as I expected them to in this new situation. Kirby, wisely cautious, needed extra encouragement and coaxing from me before reluctantly venturing ahead. Sable, wearing her moxie like a badge of honor, scampered well ahead of us, never bothering to look back.

It got me thinking. Change is about the only thing in life we can count on. It’s inevitable. Yet for many of us — for me, perhaps for Kirby too — adapting to change is a little like wading through jello. Let’s just say it’s not easy. But change is gonna’ come. Bet on it.

In my family this is a big year for change.There will be many milestone events celebrated: graduations, a wedding, new jobs, perhaps moves to other cities. These are the happy transitions we will record with photographs and stories to share for years to come. No doubt there will be many unanticipated changes too. Truth is, we never know what the future holds, only that if we weather the shifting tides together, the ride is likely to be a little less bumpy.

Winter Vegetable Soup
Thinking about change made me hungry for something warm, soothing and grounding. This Winter Vegetable Soup, an adaptation of the recipe by the same name from the Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, was just the ticket.

Ingredients:
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
4 t. fresh ginger, minced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium rutabaga, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 bunch of beet greens (I used these because it was what I had in the frig; any greens will do)
2 T. tomato paste
3-1/2 c. low sodium chicken stock
salt
freshly ground pepper
1 T. sugar
chopped parsley for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and rutabaga and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, greens and tomato paste, stirring to coat. Add the stock and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.Once the vegetables are tender, add the sugar, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the chopped parsley. Enjoy!