With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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“There was an old woman, and what do you think,
All that she lived on was victuals and drink!
Victuals and drink was the chief of her diet,
And this tiresome old woman would never keep quiet.”
— old nursery rhyme
That’s one way to nourish one’s mind and body, and for most Americans today it’s considered the best way. Fill the belly with meat, potatoes, Big Macs, shakes, cokes, coffee — keep stuffing it in. And if there’s no food about chew gum, smoke a cigarette. And words are the food for the mind — no matter if they are empty; keep the noise coming in. Music, too, has become meaningless background filler to keep the mind feeling “full.” Our sounds are as nutritious as our food, and it’s no wonder so many eyes around us seem dead behind their dark glasses.
For what truly feeds the mind and the body comes from a source too many people seem to have forgotten: and that is (pardon the archaic term) the soul. It is our soul or spirit that keeps us alive, that gives us strength and direction, that allows us to love and to fear, that drives us towards the true reason for our existence. In all the religions there are accounts of people whose spirit truly feeds their minds and bodies. Baba Ram Dass tells of his teacher in India who could perform incredible feats of strength on barely any food. And in the west, Therese Neumann, in Germany, was rosy and healthy on just her daily communion wafer. Obviously, they were fed by the source of all life, and that can’t be found in a vending machine.
So the best subject for this column to consider is how to feed the soul — but I only pretend to be a cook, not a guru/rabbi/priest. Volumes, sitting dusty in libraries and bookstores, written by truly spiritual people, provide the answer, I do know, it isn’t easy — the food for the soul cannot be obtained by coins or currency. It demands hard work and sacrifice, old-fashioned terms today. But deep down we all know that that is the true way to live — and our minds and bodies can only thrive on that truth.
We grew and dried our own soybeans this year and I’ve been experimenting with them like never before. For some reason, these seem more flavorful than “store bought,” but that might be due to all the work we put into growing them.
The following recipe is simple and a good substitute for the Big Mac. Served on whole wheat bread or rolls with pickles, onions, lettuce and condiments, it’s a high protein lunch. Or topped with tomato-mushroom sauce and accompanied by a green vegetable or salad and brown rice, it’s a filling supper. I call it “Soyburger Queen” — enough to serve four hungry people.
2 cups cooked soybeans (with liquid)
1 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tblspns. oil
1 carrot, grated
1 egg, beaten
½ tspn. paprika
2 tblspns. soy sauce
2-4 tblspns. flour or bread crumbs or oatmeal
salt & pepper to taste
Saute onion, celery & garlic in oil until golden. Mash, blend or put soybeans through a food mill, using enough liquid to keep it manageable (if the beans and liquid are warm, it’s easier). Mix soybeans with onions, celery, garlic, carrots, egg, paprika & soy sauce. Add enough flour (or bread crumbs or oatmeal) to make it of a “hamburger” consistency. Add salt & pepper. Form into patties and broil (or pan fry or bake) until brown on each side.
Another bounty we recently harvested from our now resting garden was a bucket of sweet potatoes. When I was a child in that northern jungle, New York, hot sweet potatoes used to be sold by street vendors, along with chestnuts and a Jewish potato delicacy called a “knish.” It was a real treat on a cold December day to warm my hands around a hot sweet potato, peel it like a banana and watch the steam rise from the orange “meat” inside. Such sensible and delicious treats have now been replaced by chili dogs, stale peanuts and tacos. But I can recapture those days now that I live in the country and have enough sweet potatoes to sate a hungry crowd of wood-choppers and log-splitters.
During the holiday season, sweet potatoes are quite inexpensive in the stores. Here’s a different way of serving them: as a base for a stew, South American style. Serves 4-6.
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tblspns. oil
1 pkg. frozen corn
2 green peppers, chopped
3-4 sweet potatoes, diced
3 cups stock (or water with 3 tblspns. soy sauce)
½ tspn. celery seed
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup yogurt
In deep saucepan, saute tomatoes, onion, and garlic in oil. Add corn, pepper, sweet potatoes and stock. Season with salt & pepper to taste and add celery seed. Simmer until sauce is thick and vegetables are tender (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in yogurt.