Harvest Stew


I’m sitting on the streetcar and I don’t have a clue what I’m going to eat for dinner. I’m feeling woozy: the last thing I had to eat was the puffy bagel-with-little-square-of-Philadelphia-cream-cheese at the faculty meeting, six hours earlier. I made a big mess on my paper plate because I couldn’t finish the big bland bagel and then added fresh fruit and a muffin to the pile. I tried to nosh while listening, taking notes on my computer and kind of meta-analyzing the whole situation at the same time. I don’t think my stomach registered anything, really.

I come home to a kitchen that is bright, warm, and messy.My fridge and cupboards look empty but turns out they’re not. I find:Turkey sausage. Kale. Canned tomatoes. Shallots. Garlic. Little frozen cubes of pesto I made from my container pots of basil last August.
Parmegianno Regianno. Rotini pasta

Somehow, after days of eating crap, I get my head around the food issue. My hands find a rhythm and will my brain does not possess. Pasta on the boil, dishes in the sink. As It Happens on the radio. Stuff that happened at work. Stuff happening in the world. Shallots and garlic, releasing their sweet, hot aroma. Politics, power, sustenance, survival.

Make enough for two nights’ worth of dinner. Looks good, like something an Italian granny would make. Eat it while watching a Friends rerun, feeling like a bad girl. (Because of some stuff I’ve written, my friends think I take the time to set a table, light candles, yadda yadda). Tastes good, too. Those cubes of pesto are like little time-capsules of summer. Wish I’d made more of them.

Eating alone, I am happy. Eating alone I am also: impatient, distracted. Self-conscious. My mother used to say, You. Don’t. Make. A. Whole. Meal. Just. For. Yourself. Ah, but that was back when she lived with eight other people. Now, she lives alone, like me. Sometimes I see her making a big delicious soup. Sometimes, she stands at the counter and slurps it up. Other times, more ceremoniously, she eats her soup while sitting on the couch and watching Iron Chef.


A few days later, The Guitar Player comes over and cooks dinner in my kitchen. She knows I’m slammed. She wants to be supportive. She wants to make amends. She’s nervous. Pots and pans clash and clatter. Harvest Stew. You. Have. To. Make. It. In. The. Fall. she says, tensely. The last carrots from her garden. Her fresh frozen tomatoes. Sausage again, and parsnips. Served over polenta. There’s love, and regret, and hope in this stew.

We eat together. Somehow, we get back in synch. We get our heads around sharing a meal again. It’s good.


  1. Not being as creative as you in the kitchen, I stick with the minestrone soup that I know. (http://recipesfortrouble.com/2007/01/the-light-slowly-returning/)

    A couple of weeks ago, I made a huge pot and froze most of it (it lasts forever). But last night I spontaneously invited a friend for dinner and pulled several containers out of the freezer. Bread from the local health food store, parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, salad full of nuts and dried fruit, my favourite homemade vinigrette (I substitute half the olive oil for vegetable broth these days — I never did like the taste of too much olive oil). And squares of fair trade dark chocolate with orange and spices for dessert. A perfect Shabbat dinner — the candles glowing in the background.

    And I’ve promised a friend who’s getting married this week to make her a pot of the soup for 12 people she has to feed during the week.

    The soup has become a gift.

  2. What I love about your food writing is that you know the emotions sauteed in the mirepoix and the hidden touch ingredients most of us struggle to locate.

    The Is so much going on in all the food everywhere, but especially between those in crush and in love.

  3. Aza,
    The soup may be a gift but so is the way I’ve seen you host people for dinner, with such a soft, calm welcome as I have often tried to emulate (my dinner-party welcome instead being harried, happy and distracted).

    Yes, you caught a taste of the difficult flavours of love and loss embedded in the stew.
    Can you not send your crush one of your glorious desserts? Surely that would do the trick! :)

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