The View From Here
I’m coming off of co-hosting a week-long yoga and writing retreat in Nosara, Costa Rica, feeling newly energized and refreshed. One of the best things about writing retreats is that they’re excuses to assign and discuss some of my favorite pieces — to share something brilliant, and to hear how others metabolize and reflect on what I think are consciousness-shifting stories. I’ve shared some of the pieces we discussed last week in the What I’m Reading section below so that you can enjoy them, too.
Some writing retreat participants come pieces to work on; others are looking for inspiration and ideas. As part of our workshops, I give people suggestions for how to revise or build on existing work, and I also offer prompts for those who are starting fresh. One particular prompt from this past week seemed to particularly resonate, so I thought I’d share it here. Use it for journaling, for your own writing, for reflection, for meditation, or discard it entirely if it doesn’t feel useful.
Think of a time in your life that you still feel shame over because you did something that felt out of accordance with your values (maybe you stole something, or you were cruel to someone, or you behaved wastefully). Can you write the story of that moment, incorporating your values into how you write it – for example, if compassion is one of your values, can you write the story of this shame with self-compassion and accountability?
What I’m Reading
An oldie but a goodie: “When Things Go Missing,” Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker
An oldie but a goodie: “Queen & Slim Could Be One of the Greatest Love Stories of All Time – If You Let It,” Carvell Wallace, The New York Times Magazine
“Replaying My Shame: Thirteen years later ,what happened at Gawker isn’t going away,” Emily Gould, The Cut
“The Diet Industrial Complex Got Me, and It Will Never Let Me Go,” Sarah Miller, the New York Times
“Preparing for the Corona Virus to Strike the US,” Zeynep Tufecki, Scientific American
“Miranda’s Rebellion: The reckonings of one of the South’s white suburban women, whose loyalty is key to whether Trump is reelected,” Stephanie McCrummen, the Washington Post
What I’m Cooking
When I’m coming off of food poisoning — my current situation, the second time in three weeks, this time thanks to a JetBlue sandwich — I want gentle comfort food: Something that isn’t spicy or acidic, that makes me feel full and warm. That means chicken soup. I usually make the broth along with the soup from a whole chicken, then I re-use the carcass to make more stock. (I actually made this yesterday and am about to go heat it up for lunch as soon as I finish this newsletter). I make a few different versions of chicken soup, but here’s my classic.
I often do a cheat on this so it doesn’t take, like, five hours: I use chicken fat and chicken stock I already have in my freezer to make the soup instead of waiting for the broth to finish, and then I replace that broth with what I make in the below recipe.
If you like rice instead of egg noodles, do that. In a future newsletter I’ll send out the protein-heavy refined-carbohydrate-free version of this.
And of course play with all the vegetables and spices according to what you like in your soup.
1 whole chicken
3-4 carrots, broken in half
3-4 carrots, chopped into half-inch pieces
3-4 stalks of celery broken in half
3-4 stalks of celery chopped into half-inch pieces
1 yellow onion halved (keep the skin on)
1 yellow onion diced
1/2 head of garlic
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 leeks, sliced into rounds
1 bunch of dill
1 bunch of parsley
1 bay leaf
10-15 whole black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon of fennel seeds (and whatever other spices you like — coriander seeds are good too, as is celery salt)
Lots of salt (I honestly a full tablespoon)
Poach the chicken and begin your broth by combining the following into a large soup pot or Dutch oven: the whole chicken, the broken-in-half carrots and celery, the halved onion, the halved head of garlic, the bunch of parsley, the turnip, the bay leaf, the peppercorns, the fennel seeds, and the salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, with the lid of the pot a bit ajar, until the chicken is just cooked through (12-18 minutes). Skim the scum as you go (I like to try to leave the fat in there and get it later to cook with).
Remove the chicken and tear the white meat off of the carcass (I do the dark meat, too, but purists may not like that). Put the chicken carcass and the skin back in the pot, and let it continue to simmer for 3-ish hours. Alternately, you can move everything to an Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for one hour.
Here’s where you can cheat to speed this up if you already have chicken stock or broth on hand — instead of waiting for your broth to finish, skip step four and go directly to step six, then circle back and freeze your broth alter.
Once your broth is tasting good, strain out all the stuff. I like to separate the liquid from the fat (I use this thing and I love it) and then use the fat to sauté the aromatics for my soup. Using chicken fat instead of any other oil to cook the vegetables makes such a huge difference in terms of taste, 10/10 would recommend.
At this point, I usually make even more broth by taking 1/3 to half of the broth I just made (the other half or 2/3rds of the broth is for the soup) and putting it in my Instant Pot, along with whatever is left of the chicken carcass, a few chicken wings or whatever parts were cheapest at the store, and another round of soup greens: A few carrots, a few celery stalks, garlic, a halved onion, a turnip, parsley or whatever wilting herbs are in my kitchen, peppercorns, a bay leaf, fennel seed, and a bunch of salt. Add water up to the fill line. I’ll let that go on high pressure for an hour and 45 minutes (I cook it longer on the second round because it takes more time to wring the final bits of flavor from that old chicken). Once it’s done, separate the fat into its own container, pour the broth into freezer-safe storage, and freeze it all for later use.
Once you have your broth, it’s time to make the soup. In a soup pot or large Dutch oven, heat the chicken fat and add in the diced onion, chopped carrots and celery, sliced leeks and minced garlic. Put a teaspoon or so of salt on them, and a few grinds of black pepper. If you like a little spice, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper is good too. Let ‘em sweat (that is, cook them over low heat), stirring every few minutes, until they’re softened but not browned — this usually takes 10-15 minutes for me.
Once the vegetables are soft, pour in your broth, and add three whole sticks(?) or whatever the word is for an entire piece of dill, from bottom to feathery tops (hate dill? Use rosemary or thyme). Taste the broth. Does it need more salt? If it’s too rich or too salty, should you add a little water?
Let the broth heat to a gentle simmer, then put in the chicken. I like it hand-shredded, but you could chop it into chunks as well.
Let it all gently simmer together for a few minutes, then put in your egg noodles (as many as you want! If you want a noodle-y soup, add in a lot, remembering that they expand fairly dramatically) to cook. If you’re making a bit batch of this and like me hate soggy noodles, I would ladle what you want to eat now into a smaller pot and cook the egg noodles in that. Save the rest, and cook the egg noodles in the soup as you want eat it.
Top with sprigs of fresh dill (just the feathery bits) and enjoy. This soup will be even better tomorrow.
One final note: I’m hosting another writing and yoga retreat in Tuscany from Sept. 12-18, 2020. If that’s of interest, please just hit reply to this email and let me know that you want more information.
Make sure you have lots of chicken stock on hand when corona virus comes for you.