Healing with One Hand

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I was pretty impressed with myself.

I’d made lentil-kale-sausage soup with one hand. I’d bookmarked the recipe from the food blog Blue Kitchen, a week earlier. Making the soup had been a messy and tedious undertaking, and it wasn’t the most refined dish I’d ever tasted…but I’d done it.

After a week of packaged tortellini, takeout, and pre-sliced meats and cheeses, it felt like a milestone. I could do this heroic injured heroine thing. I was out of the woods, or at least the weeds.

Nunh-unh. Not so fast, said my body.

The next day, I was back in the ER with some pretty bad pain. The whole routine, all over again – so not like the TV show! There was the usual, bored, listless, gum-chewing triage nurse, old people on stretchers in hallways, and long, dull hours of waiting, this time into the wee hours of the morning. Where was Dr. Kovac , or Nurse Sam Taggart when I needed them?

I felt sorry for myself. I glanced enviously at the people who had family or friends sitting with them, holding their hands, or carrying their coats for them while they trooped in and out of x-ray and examining rooms. A young Portuguese woman with kidney stones lay on a stretcher, her girlfriends perched sleepily but staunchly at the foot of her bed.

How do you ask for help? Who do you ask? What friends will step up and which will find it too hard?

Can’t I just find a way to do it all myself? What’s the fine line between independence and isolation?

A slow, quiet taxi-ride got me home from the ER at 4 a.m. I felt like kissing the floor of my apartment. The next morning, my phone rang at 8. (I was already up. I had a class to teach that day). It was The Queer Organizer. She’d been out of town. She’d heard what had happened.

Can I come over tonight and bring dinner she asked. I promptly burst into tears.

She was a bit embarrassed it wasn’t more fancy. Just takeout she said. Chicken pot pie, potatoes and beans. It was all tasty, but I was most excited by the potatoes (try peeling a spud with one hand). I’d been craving potatoes.

Still, it could have been cheez whiz sandwiches, it could have been porridge. I didn’t have to cook it and it came with a friend. It was fantastic.

We talked and laughed and gossiped and drank wine long into the evening. Turns out it’s the act of friendship, as much as the food, that is the medicine.

Lentil Soup with Kale and Sausage
2 to 3 main course servings
Adapted from a recipe at Blue Kitchen

This soup tasted much better a day after I made it, and becomes quite lovely with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese. It freezes well, so double the recipe and you’re set…

6 ounces sausage or kielbasa, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch thick slices [I used plain ol’ turkey sausage)
1 tablespoon or so olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
1 rib celery, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups [1 large can, don’t bother with fresh at this time of year] chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
1 cup dried lentils [brown or green], rinsed
1 tspn. chili powder
a splash of hot sauce, to taste
1/2 tspn. cumin
2 bay leaves
5 cups torn kale leaves—discard thick center stems if you want to be fancy
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over a medium flame. Add oil and sausage. Brown sausage slightly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to bowl with slotted spoon. If the sausage produced more fat in the pot, pour off all but a tablespoon or so.

Add onion, carrots and celery to pot. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often—you don’t want to brown the vegetables, just sweat them. Add garlic and cook for about 45 seconds. Add broth, tomatoes, water, lentils, seasonings and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in kale. It will quickly wilt and reduce in volume, so don’t panic. Return sausage to pot and simmer for about 5 minutes, until kale is tender and flavors have swapped around. Adjust seasonings, discard bay leaves and serve, with or without a crusty bread and some grated cheese on top.

5 Comments

  1. Omigosh, I hope you’re okay! I read this post and the previous one to see what had happened. Perhaps the late hour and one too many glasses of wine are impairing my reading comprehension. Your take on my soup sounds lovely—I hope it helped soothe you.

  2. Oh god lord! I can’t believe that a. You’re cooking with one arm and b. Typing with one arm!!! I hope you’re feeling better! I’ll send some happy thoughts your way.

  3. Terry, Thanks for the soup….Ann, Thanks for the happy thoughts…Sheryl, thanks for the mention. I broke my arm skating. The trip To ER had nothing to do with the soup as some have surmised. I have several messages on Facebook telling me to Stop Cooking Now. :-)
    Perhaps this misperception will result in other soups coming my way, lol.

  4. Well if I were closer I’d show up with sweet things…I am rather lonely myself these days, though I do have use of both hands. Hope your recovery goes well.

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