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How to Make Vegetable Stew
by
Pat Brisson


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Start with a pot big enough to hold all the ingredients,
many of your expectations, and some of your dreams.
Pour in just a little olive oil – it’s not a health food
despite what proponents of the Mediterranean Diet want you to think.
Let it slowly heat while you find an onion and chop it up.
Go ahead and cry, not just for the onion
but for any disappointment you never adequately grieved.
Stir it into the heated oil, and let the aroma take you back
to all those soups, sauces, casseroles and meatloaves
made in other kitchens, in other times.
 
Open two cans of low-sodium diced tomatoes or better yet,
use fresh if they’re in season and you can afford them.
Stir them in and think about how empty our lives would be without tomatoes -
no pizza! no spaghetti! no lasagna!
not that you eat those things any more, but still, the memories are happy ones.
Add two or three cups of water and be grateful
you didn’t have to carry it on your head from a well in the middle of town.
 
Open a can of black beans, and a can of cannellini beans
and wash off all the sodium before you stir them into the pot.
Wonder why it took you so long to appreciate beans.
Ditto lentils, as you pick through a cup of dried ones
looking for stones, which you’ve only found once
but were glad to locate with your fingers and not your teeth,
after spending all that money at the dentist.
Chop up some kale, chard, or bok choi and congratulate yourself
for your healthy choice of greens as you stir it in.
 
Check around for anything else you want to add:
celery, cabbage, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, peppers,
any weird thing you thought you were going to use
in some recipe but didn’t.
Add some spices - a bay leaf or two, savory, thyme,
herbes de Provence, dill or whatever you have
in your spice drawer that’s almost expired, or, let’s be honest,
expired years ago but you never threw away.
Simmer for a long time so you can savor the aroma
and whet your appetite.
 
Think about how one of the things people living in nursing homes
miss most is the smell of food cooking,
and be grateful for your own kitchen.
Stir it or don’t -
this stew is flexible, forgiving, unpretentious;
it’s accepting of just about any reasonable thing.
If this were a poem,
it would be the perfect metaphor for a Good Life,
but it’s only Vegetable Stew,
so enjoy!
 
© by Pat Brisson.
Used with the author’s permission.
 
Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Pat Brisson is a former elementary school teacher, school librarian, and reference librarian in a public library. She has been writing picture books and easy-to-read chapter books for the last twenty years. Pat coordinates Project Storybook, a program at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Clinton, New Jersey, which allows incarcerated mothers to select, record and mail books and tapes to their children. She received the N. J. Governor's Volunteer Award in Human Services for this wonderful project. Pat lives in Phillipsburg, New Jersey; learn more about her at www.patbrisson.com.


Post New Comment:
LindaCrosfield:
What a great read! Thank you. Funny and poignant and useful all at the same time.
Posted 10/07/2012 01:02 PM
KevinArnold:
Maslow taught us "A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting." Here we have a first-rate poem and a first-rate stew. Take that, Abraham!
Posted 10/07/2012 09:40 AM
Katrina:
I was glad to be told 'if you can afford them' for the fresh tomatoes. It brings the poem to my level, even though I do not even possess a recipe. I am also glad of the word 'ditto', which shows me I am not the only person wary of excess repetition. Being introduced to bok choi is also of interest to me. I must get to know him a little better. Thank you, Pat!
Posted 10/07/2012 09:01 AM
Pamela:
I love this poem -- not only a recipe for a delicious yummy soup, but for remembering all we have to be grateful for. I'm going to make the soup and remember the gratitude; thank you Pat!
Posted 10/07/2012 08:54 AM
mimi:
YUM! good poem and recipe both!
Posted 10/07/2012 08:11 AM
Janet Leahy:
This poem is like the stew, it never rushes, gives us permission to take time to remember, to be grateful for the smells a kitchen holds. That line about people in nursing homes is exquisite. Thanks Pat
Posted 10/07/2012 08:08 AM


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