Taking Care of Myself, With Soup

In conversations with all of you, dear readers, about moving and home-related stress (what can I say? It’s been on my mind since making this cross-country trek!), you all offered a wealth of different perspectives. Dana talked about the breakdown and renovation of her new house, and Stephanie, Shanna, and Jacqui talked about the stress of homes invaded by clutter (whether good clutter, like wedding gifts, or bad clutter, as seen in Hoarders…eek). It was clear to me that there was a thread tying all those experiences together: when we are too busy taking care of our homes, rather than being restored by the experience of just being at home, some crucial balance is thrown off.

That same balance, for me at least, is always out of whack in the week prior to a big move. As in, the week in which you forgo gym dates in favor of scrubbing the bathroom floor, and filling nail holes with toothpaste in order to reclaim your security deposit. The week in which you’re busy cramming your possessions into too-small cardboard boxes, praying that everything will stay properly duct-taped shut.

And, of course, it’s the time when you’re eschewing produce in favor of gulping down shelf-stable food, all in the name of clearing your pantry of cans and jars. For me, that’s the worst part of the lead-up to a move: you’re so busy taking care of your house that you don’t take care of yourself. An excess of peanut butter sandwiches and spaghetti-plus-sauce means feeling bloated from carb overload, and missing unprocessed things—things that have been grown under the sun.

Since making the trek to Illinois and moving (temporarily!) into my mom’s house, I haven’t gotten the full picture of what the whole living-with-my-mom thing is going to look like at age 24 (she’s been on vacation in beautiful Anguilla, and I won’t see her till tomorrow). But I do know that I love sitting in her sunny kitchen, chopping onions on her gorgeous speckled countertop, and finally starting to take care of myself again.

This red lentil soup comes from Melissa Clark’s latest cookbook, which I gifted to my mom at Christmastime and am only too happy to steal from now that I’m back here. As I take turns editing my résumé, writing cover letters, and—um—procrastinating mightily, I feel so happy that I can take a break to pull together a pot of soup that will warm my belly for six consecutive lunchtimes this week.

Adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen With a Good Appetite
Serves 6

– 4 Tbsp. olive oil
– 2 large onions, chopped
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
– 2 tsp. cumin
– 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
– 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
– pinch of cayenne or chili powder
– 2 quarts chicken broth
– 2 cups water
– 2 cups red lentils
– 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
– juice of 1 lemon
– 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint or parsley

1) In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil until drops of water bounce off the surface. Add the onions and garlic, then sauté for 4 minutes.
2) Mix in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
3) Stir in the broth, water, lentils and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and turn down the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes.
4) Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor, purée the soup to your desired consistency. Add salt as needed.
5) Mix in the lemon juice and cilantro, mint, or parsley. Serve drizzled with olive oil, dusted with chili powder or garnished with extra herbs.

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