Years ago, I took my two oldest daughters, who were then little people, to a Shoppe for a proper tea party. Five minutes with the menu convinced me that we would need to be creative if we were going to afford this outing, so we ordered one of lots of things, and split (it is difficult to divide one petit four into three, with a plastic knife, but I assure you that it can be done).
As part of the savory course, we ordered lentil soup, which the server assured us was crafted, by hand, by the chef in the back, and it was exotic and delicious.
It arrived in a shallow bowl, three quarters of a cup at most, $4 for a bowl of boiled lentils with a little broth thrown in. Exotic, it was not.
Lentil soup is exactly what you think it is, poor man’s food, but poor men have been thriving on their food for millenia. In a global society, where we funnel money from the richer nations with no intention of depositing it in the ordinary households of the poorer nations, we might start rethinking our attitude about poor man’s food, and realize that it can be tasty as well as nutritious, satisfying as well as cheap, and you certainly don’t need to pay premium price for a hand-crafted version of it in a Tea Shoppe.
Lentil Soup — Serves 4
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
3/4 cup green or black lentils (there are all kinds of lentils, in all kinds of colors, but the cheap ones that you buy in a bag at your grocery store will do just fine. People insist upon prewashing the things, and sometimes I’ll toss them in a sieve and rinse them, but more often than not I’m naughty and just pour them in the sauce pan, as is from the bag. In 30 years of consuming these things I have never bitten on a pebble, but if I do, and I mention it, you can rightly tell me that I deserve it for my laziness)
2 quarts water
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (I like the Kirkland organic brand from Costco; tasty and cheap)
1 Tablespoon beef bouillon paste (Better Than Bouillon, also at Costco; if you don’t have this, use whatever beef bouillon product you’ve got)
1/2 pound pork sausage, cooked (optional)
salt to taste
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft — 15 minutes or so at medium heat. Add the water and lentils and bring the whole thing to a boil. Reduce heat if necessary to maintain a high simmer, and loosely cover the pan. Cook the lentils for 30-45 minutes until soft (green and black lentil maintain their shape even when fully cooked; red lentils transform themselves into a pulpy mass, which is fine, just different).
Add the tomatoes along with one can of water (this helps clean the residue from the sides of the can — thrifty, thrifty) and the 1 Tablespoon of bouillon paste. I generally plop the latter in and stir it around until it dissolves. Heat back to near boiling.
Add the pork sausage, if desired. By the way, don’t be tempted to save time and cook the sausage in the the onions before you add the lentils and water. Legumes, like lentils, do not like to be cooked with salt, and when you insist upon doing so, they respond by not cooking very quickly. Although it seems like you save time by lumping everything together, you really don’t.
Add salt to taste, which means, obviously, that you taste the soup first.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I present a simple recipes on Tuesdays. You might want to accompany this meal with soft bread sticks.
Cooking for yourself saves money — I say that a lot, but I say it because I mean it. As my Tea Shoppe incident shows, if you rely upon others to do the cooking for you, you’ll pay dearly for the experience, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is worth it.
Learn to do things for yourself, and the more independent you become, the more money you will save. My book, Live Happily on Less, addresses the simple, sustainable changes you can make in your life to stretch the resources you have been given. The government isn’t going to help you with this; the bankers and financiers have no interest in your living better — they just want more of what you have. If you’re going to survive, and thrive, in an economy that is not set up for the ordinary person, then you need to take your life in hand and control what you can.
Speaking of books, keep an eye out in the future — sometime this year — for my book on Simple Christianity, written by the Christian author who does not attend church. This will be a compendium of my Christianity essays published here, at This Woman Writes, and my sister blog, Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet.
Christians are uniquely poised to live differently, and well on less, if we stop focusing on looking like everyone around us. Think about it, especially if you’re a Christian — how do you look, and live, differently from your surrounding culture? That’s what I talk about in Commonsense Christianity, and that’s what the upcoming book will address.