At 3:30 a.m. I lie awake in bed, staring over the mound of blanket that is my husband next to me, over to the fuzzy wall behind him. Fuzzy, only because I am near blind without my glasses on or contacts in.
I am paralyzed with anxiety. Paralyzed. A million thoughts run through my head, mostly about things that I could have done but did not do over the last, oh, say, 10 years. Regret is an unfriendly beast, my friends, and it keeps you up on a weekday morning for two hours at a time.
I regret a handful of things in my near thirty years of existence. Some are small — certain hairstyles from the 3rd and 4th grades, for example. But some are way bigger than I’ll ever be able to fully tackle — the mild depression in my first year of college that led to weird social habits, the way I handled my move to New York and my first apartment, my lack of budgeting habits and conversely my keen knack for spending, and there is, lest I ever forget, my poor career choices. Oh, career, how I hate you as a concept. I ran through a lot of –what if’s?- last night, many scenarios dealing with my career, and two hours later I was still up, putting this blog post together in my head. Well, at least I can be productive while sleep-deprived.
I don’t believe people when they say they have no regrets. The DiploMan says he doesn’t have any. He also doesn’t “miss” things, because he says he’s always looking forward to what’s to come. Well, he’s my Superman, so he doesn’t count. For the rest of us imperfect human beings, we make mistakes — lots of them — and some of these lead to feelings of regret. 99% of the time, I’m regret free, but then there are those spaces in my life, the mere 1% of times when I sit in a quite void of darkness (like 3:45am on a Thursday morning), staring into nothing and thinking about everything.
There’s a solution though, which to me comes when I’m exhausted down to my bones at 5a.m. and there’s nothing really left to think about. When I become delirious with frustration, I’m finally able to confront regret, mourn it, leave it, and look forward. Because until they invent time travel, thinking about what I would have done serves no purpose. It’s just too bad it takes me awhile to get to this point.
Don’t get me wrong, usually I’m looking forward. Most days it feels pretty good, sometimes it’s just mediocre, and most recently, it’s been pretty great. For example, as horrid as my career trajectory has been in the past, I’ve recently been looking forward to establishing my own thing (whatever that means) and one day having the opportunity to share it with the world. I’m looking forward to exploring new parts of the United States, after much time exploring parts abroad. I’m looking forward to my time in DC, which I’ve come to love so much as my new adopted hometown. I’m looking forward to the winter, and looking forward to steaming hot bowls of soup to sustain my days out East.
My dear partner in life only likes one kind of soup, though — that of the lentil variety — so I’m forced to make the best versions of lentil soup I can possible make, in hopes to one day veer him to the path of say, chicken tortilla soup, or minestrone, or butternut squash. Wait, no, this dear husband of mine also cares not a lick about squash, nor beets, nor sweet potatoes, nor brussels sprouts. Seriously, what’s a woman to make for dinner from September-March???
For now, lentil soup will most definitely do. In the kitchen, I’m able to confidently say I have no regrets. I can take full control and make something out of nothing. So looking forward, I’m willing this winter to be a nice cold one, and I’m willing a ton of lentil soup to be made. My first pot of the season was upon my return from New Orleans, and was rich with a lovely oxtail soup base and sweetly flavored with a mirepoix of leeks and salt ham. It was thickened, not only with lentils, but with 3 different types of beans as well. If I’m doing a lentil soup, I’m having no regrets.
Lentil Soup for the Soul
- 1 cup assorted beans, soaked (will come to be 2–3 cups)
- 4 oz. salt pork
- 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/2 large leek, finely sliced
- 1 small carrot, diced into small cubes
- 1 rib celery, diced into small cubes
- 1 small russet potato, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
- 1 cup lentils (I used black and yellow lentils)
- 6 cups oxtail stock (see recipe below)
- Soak beans overnight. For quick-soak method, add water over beans and boil. Once water comes to a boil, cook for two minutes, then turn off heat and cover with a lid. Set aside for one hour. Drain. (For this soup, I used pinto beans, cannelini beans, and split peas)
- In a large pot, heat a bit of oil over high heat and add onion and leek. Sauté for 3 minutes, and add salt pork. When pork begins to turn white, add carrot and celery. Cook for 5–7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add drained beans and lentils, stir, then add stock. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and turn heat to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes.
- After 45 minutes, add the potatoes. If soup is low, add more water to your liking — the soup can be as thick or watery as you like. Cover and cook for another 30–45 minutes.
- Serve hot. It’s lovely with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
**I was going to make a lovely pork broth out of pork neck bones as I’m apt to do, but Whole Foods had NO NECK BONES OR ANY OTHER BONES WHATSOEVER. The only thing they had were oxtails, which were fine, but c’mon! You call yourselves a butcher counter???!!?
- 1 lb. oxtail bones
- 1 large carrot, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
- 2 ribs celery, cut into 8 pieces
- fennel fronds (I keep these in my freezer, cut off from when I use fennel in salads)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 8–10 cups water
- Wash oxtail bones under water. In a large pot of boiling water, drop oxtail bones in and cook for 3 minutes. Drain, and rinse bones again. (I do this with most bones before cooking in soup or stock; it gets rid of a lot of excess fat and gristle)
- In a large clean and dry pot, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and fennel fronds. Brown vegetables, if possible. After 3–5 minutes, add oxtail and sear sides. Cook for a 5–7 minutes, and add water to top of the pot. Throw in the bay leaves, peppercorns, and a spoonful of salt. Cover.
- When water comes to a boil, turn heat to low. Simmer for about 2 hours.
- Drain vegetables and oxtail into a container using a sieve. Use stock immediately, or reserve for another time.
Yield: 4 quarts of stock