I remember the moment distinctly. When she noticed. When she asked me about it. Back in the days when I would drive my 5-year-old daughter 30 minutes to attend a 30-minute “ballet” class and then, 30 minutes back home, all with her younger brother in tow. Back when I didn’t make things very easy on myself.
Darkness had already settled over the city. We were making our way back across the river. The White Stag was lit up in all his glory and the kids were trying to spot Big Pink. Our car was brought to a halt at the far end of the bridge. We waited for the light to turn in our favor.
Directly outside our car window was a man, in tattered clothes, going through a dumpster. Looking for food, perhaps? Clothing? A blanket?
My daughter noticed and immediately asked me, “Mommy, what is that man doing?”
What do you say? How do you explain “homelessness”?
So, I did the best I could to try to explain being homeless to a 5-year old. When I was finished with my dissertation, she says to me, “Mommy, if we couldn’t buy food we wouldn’t have to worry. We could just go to Costco and eat the tasters.”
If only it was that easy.
Maybe you’re like me, I don’t know, but I struggle with how to help someone who is homeless. Do I give him money? Buy him some food? Point her to a shelter? Act like I’m busy and look the other way?
When Transition Projects asked me if I would highlight their organization here on La Pomme and give an extra-special shout out to their Soup for the Soul fundraising event taking place Thursday, February 24th, I said, “Absolutely!”
Years ago I was involved in a different fundraising event for Transition Projects and what I came to love about this particular organization is the way in which they not only shelter someone who is homeless but literally provide him with all of his basic needs. Once those needs are met, Transition Projects can then help that person build up the skills he needs to become self-reliant and overcome barriers to housing and income.
And it is quite eye opening when Transition Projects gives these residents, formerly homeless people, cameras and asks them to photograph where they once slept.
An incredibly basic human need.
A safe place to sleep.
I feature some of their photographs here. The whole collection has been gathered into a book called, Where I Slept: Being Homeless in Portland.
So, perhaps you and your sweetie weren’t able to properly celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead you were surrounded by youngsters who think of this holiday of love as the second-coming of Santa Claus. Why not consider a romantic evening out at Soup for the Soul?
Lentil and Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup
In honor of Soup for the Soul, I present to you one of my heartier soup recipes. I love to make this soup when it’s rainy and cold and something warm sounds so inviting. I find that we eat a lot of “brown” food in the winter and one thing I particularly like about this dish is the color found popping out of every spoonful. From the bright orange carrots to the red tomatoes to the vibrant green spinach. Those colors give me an extra added boost of energy I desperately need this time of year.
As for the ingredients I have listed below….if you don’t have the cheese rind or fresh parsley, don’t sweat it. You might need an extra pinch or two of salt or pepper. Maybe an extra sprinkle of grated parmesan. And of course, regular tomatoes can be used in place of the fire-roasted ones. But don’t skimp on the French green lentils. They really make a difference in soup. They hold their shape better than other types of lentils.
1 c French green lentils (sometimes known as Du Puy)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks chopped, white and light green parts only (could substitute 1 lg yellow onion)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c celery, diced (about 2-3 stalks)
1 c carrots, peeled and diced (about 2 large)
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
a bit of parmesan cheese rind
3 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley (plus more for garnish)
8 c (2 qts) low-sodium chicken broth
1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced
3 c baby spinach leaves
freshly grated parmesan cheese
Optional: 1 lb kielbasa or other pre-cooked sausage links, diced
Put your lentils in a medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over them to cover by 2 inches. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add your olive oil. Once heated, add your leeks, garlic, celery, carrots, Bay leaves, salt and pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until your vegetables have started to soften.
Next, add your cheese rind, parsley, chicken broth, tomatoes and lentils. Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
Stir in your spinach leaves and simmer another 10 minutes or until lentils are softened. If you are adding in sausage, spoon it into the pot now as well.
Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle on grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Enjoy.
Yield: One big pot-full
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010