Friday, May 4, 2012

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One Hundred Fifty Nine (On Silence, Exceptionality, Love, Death, and Food)

I lost my voice over the past few weeks due to impenetrable sadness, but I have gained it back to tell a brief story of an exceptional woman.

We had the most unspeakable tragedy in our family. My sister Elaine's daughter, Janice Furtado, died in mid April totally unexpectedly after having been admitted to the ER with a high fever. She would be have turned 32 on April 17. 

Janice was a super hero to my children having served in combat duty in the Middle East, being deployed on the rescue mission in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and working on her doctorate in psychology to help returning vets suffering from PTSD.   The services in her honor revealed that her passion, kind heart, bravery, and empathy gave her super hero status not only among family members but also among countless thousands as well. 

I am so lucky to have had incredible moments with Janice - so many of them - but there are two that reverberate with me daily, and relate to my life here - in the Big Apple with the mission of feeding folks healthful comforting food. 

After Janice had been honorably discharged from active combat several years ago, I was living in Maine and said to my husband, "I haven't seen Janice in more than 4 years.  I JUST HAVE to see her."  The kicker was that we did not know where on earth she was prancing!  Shortly after saying this, my husband, son, and I decided to take a journey to NYC to visit his aunt who lives on the Upper East Side.  After having a nice dinner with her, we decided to take the E train back to our hotel in the Lower East Side.  We heard a rumble in the subway car, looked up expecting some NY street scuffle, but instead were greeted by a woman rushing to give me the biggest bear hug ever!  "Auntie!", the woman proclaimed.  "Janice!  What in the world?  How in the world?" 

Janice happened to be visiting NYC after her discharge, and we happened to be visiting NYC from Maine, and somehow our tiny worlds collided on an "E" train heading downtown.  We screamed and hugged and hugged and screamed performing a ritualistic reunion dance. At first, the other commuters looked at us slightly perturbed, but when we explained our story, the car broke out in applause.  A perfect NY moment.  A perfect Jan and Beth moment.   Jan and I embraced again, waited for our respective stops, hugged one more time, and bid farewell knowing that our worlds would forever be intertwined. 

And for another brief story....  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to feed people.  It is one of my favorite pastimes.  Janice spent her first year of college, prior to enlisting in the US Air Force, at USM in Portland, Maine.  Our Portland house was an open door for anyone needing a good meal or quick snack.  She would come to dinner often always with a friend in tow.  And, inevitably I would serve her and her bevy of friends minestrone soup.  I can hear her voice "Auntie!  I just LOVE your minestrone soup!  It is my favorite!"  Well, Janice, this recipe is for you.  And I have renamed it "Jan's Harvest Soup."


3-4 carrots
2 onions
2 potatoes
1/2 pound green beans
2-3 medium zuchinni
3-4 cloves of garlic (we are garlic fiends)
1/3 cup (thereabouts) extra virgin olive oil
3 TBL butter
3 cups of water
1 can organic tomatoes or one box of POMI tomatoes
salt to taste (we use sea salt)
dried basil to taste
dried dill to taste
pepper to taste
1 can rinsed and drained cannellini beans (optional)

Chop all vegetables in small pieces and place in separate bowls.  In large stainless steel soup pot, warm EVOO and butter, add finely chopped onions, saute until limp, add finely chopped garlic (or mash garlic with salt with mortar and pestle and add).  Add carrots, saute for 5 minutes, add potatoes, saute 5 minutes.  Add green beans, saute for 5 minutes.  Add zucchini, saute for 3 minutes,  Stir in cabbage, saute for 3 minutes.  Add water and liquid from tomatoes.  Chop tomatoes coarsely.  Add to pot.  Stir in salt, pepper and other spices to taste.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer covered, stirring occasionally for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours.   If desired, add cannellini beans.  Cook for 30-40 minute longer until soup is thick.

This recipe is as individualistic as Jan.  You may wish to add different vegetables and splash in some white wine while it is cooking.  Salt, pepper and spice to taste.

We served this with Spelt Right Rosemary Bread.  (Sliced, with olive oil, baked at 450).

Whenever I make this soup, there will be joyful memories of a life that danced on this earth with the special gift to bring joy to all of those who waltzed with her.   Thank you, Jan, for the inspiration.  

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