My husband, Micah, and I returned this afternoon after being away a couple days, and I have to admit that one of the first things that I thought about on our return was what in the world we were going to have for dinner. I knew we’d be running low on supplies when we got back and our options would be limited. Opening the fridge, I saw that our CSA box had arrived with an assortment of fruits and veggies but besides that, we had next to nothing in the house. On top of this, it’s been raining for about three days straight and fall seems to be suddenly upon us with cooler temperatures. So the inspired choice for when it’s wet, chilly and all you have is random vegetables: soup!
I ended up making a slightly modified version of “Savory Grain and Bean Pot” from the awesome Mennonite cookbook More with Less. The idea of More with Less is to make great food, but also walk more gently on the earth and share more with our fellow human beings through the choices we make in what we eat. So, the recipes tend to deemphasize meat, cost less and have fewer calories and sugar. More with Less first came out in 1976, but it seems even more relevant today as there are now even more of us on the planet to feed and as we see more and more clearly the affects our over-consumption has on our earth.
I also love that this cookbook and I have a similar food philosophy. In the introduction Mary Beth Lind, a dietitian, explains that “When we make food an integral part of our lives and our homes, it becomes part of our theology.” She talks about growing food and cooking slowly and carefully, with thought about our impact on nature and the sacred space created when people share a meal together, as being a way for us to be “co-creators with God and stewards of God’s garden.” No longer are we an American consumer; we are suddenly transformed into nurturers.
What a refreshing way to look at food! It no longer is eating just about shoving the right nutrients into our bodies, but also about our connection to God, the earth and each other. In a dietary world which leans towards reduction of food into just its component parts of proteins, fats and sugars, we may instead see food in the grand picture of God’s providing hand.
Our soup meal was very typical of the kind of meal that More with Less urges us, as Christians on a needy planet, to eat. Not only did we use little meat and processed food, but we also ate bread that was a gift from a friend, chicken broth that was made at home and we sat there for a good while after we were done talking with each other. We filled our need for food, but we also filled our deeper need for connectedness through conversations, this night about politics (we do live in DC after all) and our trip.
I am in no way promising that this soup will magically transform your time with whomever you eat this with into some utopian dream. Just that eating together- thanking our Creator and welcoming what he has provided for us- is a moment of grace in a world full of fast food and too little conversation.
Faith’s Slightly Modified Savory Grain and Bean Pot
-Heat in large kettle 2 tbsps. olive oil.
-Add and sauté: 1 chopped onion and several cups chopped veggies of various sorts (I ended up with wax beans and half a green pepper from last week’s CSA box, mushrooms left over from Friday night’s pizza, broccoli from this week’s CSA box, one carrot and one stick of celery of undetermined age from the bottom of the fridge.)
-Add: one can of Navy beans; a couple chopped tomatoes; 2-3 peppercorns (I don’t know why, but I just did what the book told me to); pinch cayenne; ¼ tsp. each fresh basil, tarragon, fresh oregano, and celery seed; pinch each thyme, rosemary and sage; 2 tbsps. Braggs liquid aminos; ½ cup brown rice; 1/3 cup bulgar; 8 cups chicken broth.
-Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-2 hours until grains are tender.