Well, I haven’t actually read much for the past week. Instead, I’ve been doing something I haven’t done in ages: listen to music. It’s been a glorious mix of old and new favorites. I always forget how much I enjoy listening to a song that fits my mood just right.
This song is playing at breakfast time this week:
Ok, it’s this one and Sheb Wooley’s “One-eyed, One-Horned, Flyin’ Purple People Eater.”
I’ve also been cooking up a soup storm. I love soups that I can quickly throw together, although admittedly, sometimes my pureed soups make me wonder what exactly sets them apart from baby food. But that question is for another day. Today, I’d like to pair up three wonderful comfort reads—each with a little twist to make it stand out—with three easy-peasy soups I’ve enjoyed since the weather started to feel just a little bit like autumn.
First up is Ami McKay’s The Birth House. It’s the story of Dora Rare, who becomes the reluctant apprentice to midwife Miss Babineau. Over the years, Dora learns to assist the women in her neighborhood through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. When a brash new doctor arrives in the area and promises faster and easier childbirth, tradition and science begin to clash. Dora is forced to take sides and finds herself fighting to protect not only the rights of women, but also the secrets and wisdoms she learned from Miss Babineau.
Seeing how this story takes place in Nova Scotia, you will probably not be surprised that this book is highly recommended by Naomi. Thank you, my friend, for the gift. I loved this book! I loved how Dora grows into her role as midwive and how the book incorporates actual historical events. Reading about the age-old remedies for various ailments made me think of all the advice my grandmother always had, some good (steep onion slices in hot water and then mix it with honey for a sore throat) and some rather questionable (jump around the house to induce labor—Dora never mentions this to her patients!). The story felt down-to-earth, and it was a pleasure to read.
I’ve decided to pair this book with a Creamy Basil Spinach Soup. You cook up garlic, leeks, and zucchini, add some broth, and when everything is soft throw in a bunch of spinach and basil. Then you puree it, and it’s done. It’s wonderfully green and creamy (even though there’s no cream involved), and the basil adds such a surprising twist to it. The moment you think “oh, this is spinach,” the basil takes over and you think “oh, now it’s basil.” And the best thing is that the whole soup is done in about 20 minutes, if you don’t count the time it takes to clean the leeks. For the recipe, click here.
The next book is Margot Livesey’s Eva Moves the Furniture. The story takes place in Scottland, where Eva’s mom dies during childbirth. Eva is raised by her heartbroken father and no-nonsense aunt. Throughout her life, Eva is visited by a woman and a girl. No one but her can see these two mysterious characters. As Eva tries to find her way in the world, it is becoming increasingly unclear whether her companions are friendly or mean to do her harm. In the end, it’s a lovely tale of loneliness, love, and the bond between mother and daughter.
The story itself is maybe not that special, aside from the presence of ghosts, but the writing really elevated this book for me. Much is said with few words; the prose is smooth and sparse, but full of feeling. The ending was bittersweet. That is why this book gets paired with Southern Comfort Soup, not because it tastes bittersweet, but because the final step is essential to making this soup work. And contrary to its name, there’s no alcohol involved in preparing it. You start out with olive oil and garlic and then throw in a whole bunch of leavy greens. Once they have wilted, you add broth and simmer it all for a while. Then you puree it, and it really doesn’t look all that appetizing. It actually doesn’t taste like anything special at this point either. The secret is the Yasmine rice and vinegar you add. That elevates the soup to something wonderful. If you use a bag of mixed cooking greens, making the soup only takes as long as it takes for the rice to cook. The recipe is here.
Incidentally, this soup made me think of this song:
Lastly, I read Sally Gunning’s The Widow’s War over the summer. This one takes place on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in the early 1800s. When Lyddie’s husband dies at sea, everything she owns legally belongs to her overbearing son-in-law. Lyddie decides to challenge both law and custom and then has to grapple with the fallout from her decisions. I found it to be a well-written book and an interesting look at life in a small Puritan community. I particularly appreciated that Lyddie didn’t start out as particularly rebellious and that her fear and doubts about her own actions were often central to the story. I love reading about this time period, and this book did not disappoint.
It seems that I’m having a thing for green soups at the moment, and since I currently also cannot get enough of chickpeas of all things, this book gets paired with a creamy broccoli soup that gets thickened not with dairy but with chickpeas, which you roast together with the broccoli for about 15 minutes. While that is happening, you cook more broccoli, onions, and garlic in olive oil, coconut milk, and broth. When that’s all cooked through, you puree it and mix in the roasted stuff. What brings it all together is the turmeric and curry powder you use to season the soup. It’s earthy, and it can be thrown together in about half an hour. What more can you want? You’ll find the recipe here.
I’ll leave you with this song, which makes me want to put flowers in my hair and skip through a field of wild flowers, which strikes me as funny since I’m not the type to put flowers in my hair and all the fields around here have nothing but cut-down corn stalks and an occasional pumpkin left on them.
P.S.: If you need something to cheer you up when the next messed-up news story breaks, do yourself a favor and check out Lily Allen’s album “It’s Not Me, It’s You.” Look at the song titles and let me know if you can figure out which song in particular I’m thinking of.
Have a good weekend, everyone!