I was ignoring the few beets and carrots left over from last week’s produce box simply because my preferred method of preparation is roasting, and I don’t heat the oven for just a few lonely vegetables. I think all the Easter-related cooking sapped a bit of enthusiasm for much culinary creativity, but I grabbed this month’s selection from my VegCookBook Club, Blissful Bites, and found a very easy beet and carrot soup. It sounded promising.
Sometimes if I’m handling beets I wear thin kitchen gloves just to keep from getting my hands all red, but since I was only going to chop two or three, I didn’t bother. Sure enough, my hands were darkly stained in a matter of minutes, which triggered an almost entirely forgotten memory.
When we were newly married we lived for about a year on the same property as my husband’s mother. Marian lived in a very tiny back cottage and we took the house in the front. She’d been a widow for close to twenty years, worked hard as a school teacher and cared for her own mother, but in between—what there was of an in-between—she painted. Occasionally she would venture outside of her acrylics and oils on canvas and would decide to experiment.
This one time I walked to the rear of our house and found her outside putting paint and what I thought was red dye all over a big fish. She had been studying a book she’d found at the library about the Japanese art of fish printing–gyotaku! Traditionally, fish printing involved painting fish with ink and then laying rice paper carefully over the surface of the fish. When the rice paper is lifted off the life-size impression of the fish is revealed. The end result on delicate rice paper can be quite beautiful.
Well, she had decided that in order to save paint, and also to experiment with natural pigment, she was going to give vegetable dyes a try. The red color all over her hands and on the fish was very thick beet juice! I don’t think any part of it was coming out the way she had envisioned, but it didn’t matter to her at all. She was having a wonderful time! It was all about the experience–the tactile semi-scientific art experience! I can remember how enthusiastic she was about what she had learned about gyotaku—she was a high school art history teacher after all, and learning about a new-to-her art form and then giving it a try was the best possible “escape route” for a woman with a great deal of creative energy coupled with very demanding life pressures.
Art was her stress-reducer, and she maintained her curiosity and love of learning and experimenting with new art techniques, maybe not quite as experimental as a fish covered in beet juice, but with enthusiasm nonetheless, until she passed away just a few weeks short of 90.
I’ll share a bit of the recipe that triggered my memory. It’s taken from Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan. Christy also has a very interesting website absolutely full of recipes you might enjoy trying–or do as I do, and just read them! Even that is relaxing to me.
Christy’s soup had a few more ingredients, but I adapted it for what I had on-hand, and Jay and I both ate it right up!
Just a few ingredients necessary:
1/2 cup of water
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium red beets, peeled and chopped
1 TB coriander
1 tsp oregano
pinch of sea salt
5 cups filtered water
1 cup lentils (red was recommended, but I didn’t have red!)
1 TB red wine vinegar
1 small lemon
Simply steam the beets, carrots and spices in the 1/2 cup of water for just a couple of minutes until they’re slightly cooked. Add the rest of the water and the lentils and simmer partially covered for about 25 minutes. You can puree the mixture when it is done…I used my immersion blender. At the very end add the juice of the lemon and the vinegar. The tartness added to the sweet soup–carrots and beets are quite sweet, was just a wonderful addition. It could be topped with a little Greek yogurt or soy sour cream…I didn’t do either. It was good just as it is. Heart healthy and simple!
Some of us cook, some paint, others garden, or write or travel or make music or dance–or maybe enjoy all of these lovely pursuits! My mid-week encouragement to you is don’t let obligations or responsibilities keep you from celebrating the art of living. Your overall well-being completely depends upon it!
Here’s a picture of a very happy Marian–almost 90 years old.