This day last year in Cortona, Italy, my friend Andrea the papermaking professor extraordinaire for the Spring Semester convinced our friend Mario to don an olive wreath to play the part of Julius Caesar for her Ides of March Tribute. He agreed of course, lest he wanted the wrath of this infamous day brought down upon his very own head (sometimes it is best to do what Andrea says!)
But, in fairness to Andrea, she knew that Mario would enjoy the bit of drama attached to a period in history (in a city he loved, Roma), to be something he would not say no to, and so he put up with her turning his sweater into a makeshift cloak and thrusting a wand of sorts into his hand in preparation for the grand finale of her Ides of March project.
Andrea had her students make little paper books to be used for the writing of secrets. And in the early afternoon anyone who wanted to, was invited to gather at the big old stone wall outside of the paper studio to write a “secret” and hide it in the crevices of the rocks.
Faced with this tiny blank sheet of paper was a little intimidating. Do I write an actual secret, something I have never dared to utter to anyone, or just write something clever or silly?
As everyone finished their notes they gave them up to the cracks in the high wall and waited until the wall was full of secrets before being allowed the delectable task of finding all of the little pieces of paper, reading the contents and putting them back for the next reader to find.
It was a little surprising to find that most people did reveal a part of themselves that remained hidden until the opportunity to tell something in anonymity presented itself by way of a small piece of paper and a wall full of fissures.
Things like: “I am the only one not having fun”, “I want to build a place for children to play”, “I am going to break-up with my boyfriend when I get home”, “He has a beautiful body”, “When I am dead my dearest, sing no sad songs for me”
It felt like Andrea took everyone to confession and we were now being absolved of our sins, forgiven by strangers. The pieces of paper remained there until ravaged by weather and time. If anyone is reading this in Cortona, perhaps they could walk out to the wall by the paper studio and see if anything is left of our moment last year – Let me know!
In the middle of all of this the large window to the left of the wall swung open and there Mario appeared in all of his get-up waving his starry wand and began a passionate speech to the little crowd of us who had gathered around the window in anticipation. This was no soothsayer warning to “Beware the Ides of March”. This was Caesar himself come back from the grave threatening revenge upon his murderers and damnation to everyone else! Trust Mario to use this moment to give a voice to the mightily fallen Caesar. It was a refreshing change from the usual ravings of the beggar warning of impending danger.
On to the food bit of my story: I made a soup last night and was thinking of warming the cold in our souls and bones when I came up with this restorative concoction. It was an evening when the wind whistling around the house and threatened to find its way in under the doors and through the windows. I had to make something searingly hot both in temperature and flavor. When I asked my son what should I call my soup after we had all eaten, he said “Soup of the Gods”. I think it fits quite nicely with the rest of my story.
*This is also a Blood Type A diet Recipe – omit the hot sauce if you are very strict, but all other ingredients are either beneficial or neutral*
Soup of the Gods Recipe
You will need:
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced
1 sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced,
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 baby bok choy plants, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (grated or shredded)
1 cup baby Bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbs good quality curry powder (I used a special mix from Kalustyan’s, a great specialty food shop in Manhattan. So, seek out the best you can find!)
2 tsp dried herbs (such as oregano, crushed fennel, sage, thyme)
1/3 cup dried mushrooms (optional, but adds nice depth)
1/2 tsp sea-salt (more to taste)
1 good quality vegetable or chicken bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel brand. They make the best stock cube in my book)
12 cups water
3 cups cooked basmati rice (if leftover, take it out of fridge when you begin and add to the soup cold. If cooking from scratch, cook the rice at the beginning of prep)
Condiments & Garnish: thinly sliced fresh lime & Sriracha sauce
1 – Prep all ingredients before you begin cooking. Put dried mushrooms in cup of hot water until ready to use.
2 – Put good-sized soup pot or big saucepan on medium heat and add 2 tbs of olive oil. When it has warmed up, add the garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
3 – Add the curry powder and dried herbs stir into the veggies. Next, crumble in the stock cube and ½ teaspoon sea-salt.
5 – Add the water and turn heat up and bring pot to a boil.
6 – Next add the bok choy, carrots and dried mushrooms (if using), and stir.
7 – Add the chicken and bring the liquid back to a boil. When it boils, turn the pot down to low. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender. Turn heat off and add the cooked rice. Cover and let pot sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Make sure you taste and season further with salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it.
Serve with a slice of lime and some sriracha. Of course this is fine alone or with a different condiment of your choice.