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,
© by Pat Brisson.
Used with the author’s permission.