Recipe: Meave’s ma’s fresh mushroom soup!  »

It’s cold and rainy in the Bay Area! But I am neither whining nor complaining about it; when you are having a life crisis and more depressed than usual, you should not question a legitimate reason to stay the hell in bed all day, you know?

Luckily, in addition to sleeping your feelings away, you can eat them! That’s why I present to you today my mother’s recipe for fresh mushroom soup. It is hearty and healthy and warming and filling, so you can eat an enormous bowlful (or two or three or however many) and not add to your reasons to weep. What I’m saying is, this soup is John Mackey-approved, i.e., choke it down and it won’t lose you your PLATINUM DISCOUNT.

The directions are copied nearly verbatim from my ma’s recipe cards, which she keeps in a recipe tin she got from mailing in Grape-Nuts proofs-of-purchase a long time ago, when I was a small girl and cereal companies made it worth your while to shell out for postage.

2 medium onions, chopped
2 Tbs. (plus a little extra) non-dairy butter
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
5 Tbs. uncooked barley
3 fist-sized potatoes, diced
3 cups water
3 1/2 cups plain unsweetened non-dairy milk

1. Saute the onions in the non-dairy butter (we like Earth Balance at my house) in a pan.

2. Add the mushrooms, a bit more non-dairy butter, and continue to saute another 10 minutes over a low heat.

3. Place the onions and mushrooms in a large pot. Add the barley, salt and pepper to taste, the potatoes, and the water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. More water can be added now and then.
N.B.: Up to this point, everything can be done the night before, in which case you perform step 4 just before you plan to eat the soup. If you’re cooking to eat it now, the 45 minutes have fragrantly passed.

4. Add the non-dairy milk (we used soy) and very slowly heat soup, stirring constantly, just to the brink of boiling. A bit more or less milk can be added, depending on how you like the consistency of soup. Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

I like mine sprinkled with nutritional yeast as well, but I am in the minority around here. My ma reports that this recipe can be easily doubled, but you might not need to because it really makes a lot of soup.


RECIPE! Ms. Lonelyhearts’ lentil soup  »

Sometimes you are on top of the world; life could not possibly be greater, everything is sunshine and lollipops, and those rose-colored glasses have become permanently affixed to your face, but in a pretty way (obviously, everything about you is pretty). The view is amazing from your shining city.

Then, one day, you open your eyes and you can’t see the view for the fog; someone has ousted you from your dream-house and you can’t keep those pretty glasses on, all the tears make them slide down your face too much. One day the sunshine leaves.

When you’ve eased back from the copious weeping, you may realize you’re starving to death. Possibly because you haven’t been able to drag yourself to the grocery store in two months, possibly because you haven’t had to cook for yourself since you were eligible for The Real World, regardless, there are zero nonperishables in your cupboard but you still need to eat. Before you gnaw off your own hand, or spend obscene amounts of money and dignity on takeout for one, try this quick and easy recipe for soup!

Because it’s a liquid, it expands to fill the gaping hole inside where your ability to feel (anything but wretched self-pity) used to be. Because it’s lentils, it’s full of nourishing protein, vitamins and minerals, all of which you’re missing at the bottom of this well of mope. Because it’s quick, you’ll barely have time to reflect on the fact that this really is a meal for sorry little you before you’ve devoured it and are much sleepier than pathetic.

red lentils
cooking oil
assorted spices
lemon or lime

Rinse about 1 cup red lentils in a mesh strainer until they seem “clean”; pick out any tiny stones or other non-lentil materials. Transfer the lentils into a small-to-medium-sized pot. Should you feel compelled to shake the lentils while in the strainer, or perform any other fancy-type moves, refrain; wet red lentils, once spilled, are quite difficult to pick up, and your antics will only prolong your pre-meal suffering, as well as increase your anger with yourself—yes, it’s possible to feel even more upset than when all this started. Really.

Next, add about 4 cups of water to the lentils in the pot. Maybe add a little more, it’s not that important. Best to err on the wetter than drier side, anyway, lest you end up with burned lentil sludge instead of delicious lentil soup. Ms. Lonelyhearts does not recommend fucking up this recipe; it could be very detrimental to your already precariously low self-esteem, and besides you have really got to eat something. Put the pot on the stove, turn the heat to high, cover the pot and wait for it to boil. This won’t take more than five minutes, during which time you can return to your online crossword to fill in a couple more clues. Don’t cry if you don’t make any progress; a hungry brain is a slow and stupid brain.

Once your lentils in water are boiling, remove the pot lid and reduce heat to medium-low. Now, throw in anything in your cupboards for flavor, bearing in mind that lentils are, by themselves, on the blander side. Ms. Lonelyhearts’ recipe includes black pepper, basil, rosemary, a healthy pour of oil (olive? canola? whatever, just get some fat in there, your hair is a ball of split ends), and more salt than you think you should add. No, really. If you are an undersalter, close your eyes and pour. If you oversalt, go with your gut, shake in as much as you think best. If you are a perfect salter, then maybe you should be making something fancier than this sad recipe for sad people, Mr.-or-Mrs. Perfectpants. You and your perfectly salted food and your smooth skin and your happy face are in the wrong place, and are welcome to scoot on back to the sunshine any time. The rest of you should note that if you happen to burst into tears while seasoning your soup, try to cry directly over the pot, so as to better flavor your supper.

After you’ve seasoned, cover the soup and leave it to simmer for about 10 minutes. Make sure the timer is set loud enough that you can hear it from underneath the heap of bedclothes. When the 10 minutes are up, go stir the soup, taste it, make whatever flavoring adjustments it needs. You will probably need to add more salt. That is not a lie; Ms. Lonelyhearts would never mislead you. If the lentils feel like they’ve been sticking a bit to the bottom of the pot, turn the heat down a little—of all the things you’ve ever wanted not to happen, your lentils sticking is now at the top of the list (handily, the top five already happened, so prioritizing the rest is a matter of momentary importance). Now, cover the pot again and let the lentils simmer for 15 minutes, while you do whatever you need to do to get through them. Try updating your Depressing Music For The Body-Wracking Sobs playlist; some of those songs do lose their meaning after so much repetition. No, don’t pretend you don’t have one.

Once those 15 minutes are up, give the soup one more good stir—see how thick it is? that means it’s soup now—and turn off the heat. All you need to do now is add a little acid for contrast. Fortunately you have been drowning your sorrows in liquor these past weeks, and consequently have at least one lemon or lime around. Cut it in quarters, and squeeze them in one at a time, stirring and tasting after each one. When everything tastes right—about one fruit’s worth, give or take—ladle your soup into a bowl, grab a spoon, and retreat to your sanctuary (bedroom) to eat your supper, all by yourself. There’ll be enough for seconds, unless you’re using an enormous soup bowl, which you certainly can; there’s no one around to see or judge you for behaving a little feral right now. When you inevitably go back for seconds, being hungry and depressed without anyone to share with or stop you from eating more than your share, which is all of it, anyway, you are alone.

But you are also full of nourishing soup! Congratulations, you have taken care of yourself today. Don’t forget to rinse out your dishes before you crawl back into bed with a stiff drink.

This recipe is easily doubled for those not convinced of their inevitable solitary death!

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