And with a suddenness that has once again caught me off guard, the darkest time of year is here.
Meanwhile, our family has been furiously celebrating the light within, mostly through festivals at Kingston's school. Michaelmas, to remember our courage when we are faced with dark times; Martinmas (and its corresponding Lantern Walk), to make external our inner light, our lanterns guiding us in the darkness.
These activities were designed to remind us -- children and grown ups both - that though we may be faced with the unknown, we have the ability to summon strength and courage, light and goodness from inside ourselves. These festivals help us to remember again and again that light and dark each have their time as they move through the seasons, like the earth breathing in before exhaling again.
This has been good for me to remember, especially in the past several weeks. Since the night of November 8th, I've been mucking through, trying to sort out my feelings about our general collective state. I've been doing this, like more than half of the people in this country, because the candidate I threw in with did not win.
We are joined together in whatever happens next, no doubt about that. This makes it more important than ever for us to connect with those around us through conversation and shared experiences, good food and open minds.
Neighbors, friends, acquaintances and family. It doesn't take much. Invite them in for soup. Let it soothe us as we take comfort in one another's company. Together, we are resilient.
Comforting Black Bean Soup
This is the soup I could eat every day, rain or shine, whether I'm feeling happy, sad or worried about nothing and everything. It is extremely simple and requires pretty much no attention once you have thrown all the ingredients in the pot. If you want to make this vegan, simply omit the pork and throw in a piece of kombu to add that extra umami flavor that the pork otherwise gives this.
Adapted from The Kitchn.
1 lb. dried black beans
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
1 red peppers, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 slices thick-cut bacon (or substitute 1 large piece of kombu)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
Chopped onion or scallion
Sour cream or grated cheese
Hot sauce (such as Tapatio or Cholula)
Pick through beans, removing any stones or debris. In a large container, cover beans with a good 2 to 3 inches of water. Allow to soak overnight.
The following day, drain beans. Place in a large pot. Cover with about an inch of filtered water. Add onions, peppers, garlic, bacon, oil, salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Over high heat, bring the pot to boil then turn down to low simmer. Allow to simmer covered for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. At this point, the beans will be quite soft. Use a potato masher to gently press down on the beans. This will break down some of the beans while leaving some texture. If you are using kombu, the seaweed will have melted into your soup by this point. Continue to simmer 15 to 20 minutes then add vinegar. Cook an additional 15 minutes to mellow out the vinegar. Serve with garnishes and a dash of Mexican-style hot sauce if desired. This is great with cornbread.
The soup keeps for several days and continues to improve in flavor, as bean dishes often do. It will thicken up after refrigeration. Sometimes I add a little water when I warm it up, other times I eat it as is, thick and creamy.