A Charmed Life
This week, I’m feeling like I live a charmed life. I’m fortunate to live where I do, when I do, and how I do. A major calamity would have to happen to make me start to feel sorry for myself.
This musing comes on the tail of the movie and the play that I saw last weekend. Both have caused me to be sure that regardless of the little inconveniences of life, I am a very lucky person. I have a roof over my head, a job, and a family I love (human and canine), and quite a bit above and beyond these basics. Who could ask for more.
It started on Friday night when we rented watched the movie Winter’s Bone. The movie was excellent, but incredibly depressing. The movie tells the story of a teenaged girl Ree whose father has put their home up as collateral on a bond bail when he was arrested for making crystal meth. And he’s disappeared. If he can’t be found, the family will lose the house. The girl is the only stable part of a family that, excluding the missing drug-dealing father, is made up of a mentally ill mother, incapable of caring for her children, and two younger siblings. They live in extreme poverty in Appalachia. Ree sets out to find her father and save her family’s home, running into low-life characters at each turn. It was a grim story, though Ree’s strength and determination was inspiring. This movie made me thankful for the life I have.
It gets worse. On Saturday, we went to the Huntington Theatre to see their current production Ruined, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This play was incredibly powerful, among the best I’ve seen in the years we’ve been attending the Huntington.
The action takes place a bar/brothel set in a jungle in war-torn Congo. The residents are women whose lives have been ruined by the war around them, both emotionally and physically. In this world of brutal soldiers, rape is rampant, part of the pillage of the war. Those that are raped are then shunned from their families and villages. As hard as it is to image, the brothel offers a haven for the girls, where survival in the bush, their only other option, would be tenuous to impossible. Mama Nadi, the madam, offers a modicum of safety for these girls, as she herself struggles to survive.
The best (and worst) of human nature drive the story, and the horror of the world this introduced me to has stayed with me. Again, I look around my own world and realize how fortunate I am. Perspective is everything.
Comfort food was called for to rewarm the soul and take the chill off from these chilling realities. I dug up an old recipe for a root vegetable bisque. It’s probably been years since I last made it. We still have a large supply of root vegetables from our winter CSA. This soup starts with the sweetness of caramelized onions, potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. When the sherry and cream are added, it gives the soup the “bisque-y” flavor I love. This soup is only partially pureed, so some chunky vegetables provide contrasting textures in each bite.
Root Vegetable Bisque
2 Tbsp butter
2 large onions, halved and sliced
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
½ lb parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 quart chicken broth
1½ lbs red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ tsp dried thyme
1 cup half-and-half
¼ cup Sherry
Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions, and sauté until golden, about 15 minutes. Turn down the heat if they are browning too fast. Add the carrots and parsnips and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until th potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Puree half of the soup in a blender (in batches, if necessary) and return the puree to the remaining soup in the pot. Stir in half-and-half and Sherry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup back to a simmer before serving.