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Wednesday, May 2, 2007 10:01 pm

Soup to heal

The ultimate healer and peacemaker includes beans

Untitled Document The massacre at Virginia Tech has shaken the nerves of this country, and its chilling impact is being felt as far away as India, Israel, and Peru.
The story itself has all the makings of a CSI episode that includes a law-enforcement probe into the creepy, mysterious twists and turns of a psychopathic mind and the battle between good and evil.
With the mass mourning and hand-wringing comes a certain glued-to-the-tube-ness that ultimately feeds only the media frenzy. A more effective way of healing the collective consciousness is to loosen that glue, head into the kitchen, and feed each other instead. I am as guilty as anyone, cocooning myself from interaction with people in my life, be it older relatives who relish a phone call or the neighbor who’s just lost a spouse or a job. Time eludes us, and all of a sudden a year has passed and now that neighbor is a stranger. I promise you, though: It’s never too late to reach out, particularly if food is involved. Food is the ultimate healer and peacemaker, warm and beautiful like a patchwork quilt, and cooking is the needle and thread. If you’re stuck on how to get started or think I’m too warm and fuzzy, consider experimenting with a pot of soup. All you need are a few ingredients — in the recipe below, I use dried beans, a carrot, onion, some garlic and fresh herbs, which all get thrown together, to mix and mingle over low, slow heat. A few hours later, your pot of miscellanea has transformed into sustenance, not just for you but also for several of your fellow citizens. I promise you, no one will turn down this random act of kindness, particularly now, when that kind of medicine can also help heal our wounds.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at
Random-Act-of-Kindness Bean Soup
1 pound dried pinto beans (I recently discovered the heirloom beans from Napa, Calif.-based Rancho Gordo, which are amazing. The “Vallartas” put all other pinto beans to shame.) 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered Three cloves garlic, peeled and smashed One carrot, peeled and chopped into fourths One sprig of fresh rosemary Liquid of choice: warm stock, water, or brewed tea Other possible add-ons: canned tomatoes, 2 ounces of your favorite bourbon or whiskey, maple syrup Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the beans in a deep pot, in enough water to cover them plus a few inches, for at least six hours. When ready to cook, add onion, garlic, carrot, and herbs to the pot, plus additional liquid to cover the beans adequately. Cook over medium-high heat and bring up to a boil; cook at a rolling boil for at least five minutes and as long as 10. Reduce heat and cover pot, then cook at a simmer until beans are fork-tender. Add additional liquid as necessary. Add bourbon or tomatoes, if you are using either, after the first hour, and increase the heat to allow the alcohol to boil off. Remove onion, carrot, and herb sprigs, then season with salt and pepper as desired.
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