Monday, December 5, 2011

Comfort in the Valley of the Dragons: Metaphor: finding a recipe for recharging for fighting the good fight.

Growing up in the USA. in the 70's and 80's was like growing up in a world contained unto itself. Rock and Roll, jello, and Church pot luck suppers. As Americans we were sheltered from much of the desperate problems that were afoot in the world. Even those which we were responsible for causing. We had our challenges, but most of them were turned inward on ourselves, and the goodness of our lives was rich with the fat of the land and the bounty that lay around us in every facet of living not just in the bounty on our tables.

When 2001 happened and then the recession in 2008 I think we began for the first time to see how our world was affected by the things around us. For me the attack on 2001 signaled an end to an age of innocence begun when I was very young. It was the first time I saw my world changed forever by the people who live far away, and know little of my day to day.

My father had a favorite story which he used to tell. it came from a novel which he adapted to a tale which his two young sons could understand. it was a story not about the bigger world out there far away, but also about our day to day. Our everyday, our life if you will.

The story is about a nation of people who live in a land with high mountains and a very deep valley. The people built there houses and towns, churches and taverns in the valley. And once a year in the summer they would travel up to the top of the mountain for 2 months of celebrating and feasting resting and communing. It was a restful time when no work was done and they would celebrate and study. Then after these two months they would return to the valley. In the valley they would spend the rest of the year working and building, planting and harvesting.

The one terrible thing that they had to contend with was that in a deep cave within the mountain there lived a family of Dragons. Now the Dragons would come out into the valley and attack the towns and take the people's food and destroy their homes. But these Dragons could not fly and so they would only come out into the valley and never go up to the Mountains. This was the battle of these people's lives, and they would fight drive the dragons back into the cave  where they would sleep and seal it up and there the Dragons would stay until the next time they awakened and would break out somehow and come out and fight the people.

So the day after the Dragons had been driven back to the cave one year , a little boy from the village asked his father why if the Dragons could not fly up to the mountains they did not just go up there and stay there, since it was so peaceful and beautiful up there. The father turned to his son and explained. You see my boy, when we go up to the mountain every year we rest and commune and eat and celebrate. But we cannot live there year round, for while the mountain is beautiful and peaceful and provides us with a safe place to rest from any worries about the dragons, it does not have the fields and brooks and the trees and meadows where we can work and grow the food we need or tend to our animals or build towns and solid structures. It is only a place to visit to regain our strength and rest in the beauty. but in the winter we need the warmth of the valley and our homes. And even though the Dragons live there and we have to fight for our lives it is our home and we will stay and defend it. The little boy looked at his father and said I understand father, the mountain top is where we get the strength to live in the valley and fight the Dragons, cause there will always be Dragons and we will always need the Mountain as a moment of repose from the battle, but will always return to fight again because we live in the valley.

And so it is with us. We live in the valley of the Dragons everyday. ( ie. Corporate jobs with Corporate politics and greed amongst other things and I'm sure you can insert your own Dragon! )We have moments were we can go to the "mountain top" but like Moses we return to valley because it is where we live our lives. But like Moses ( or Maria ) "we go to the hills when are hearts are lonely", we need to find there the rest and inspiration to come back and fight our personal dragons, fight the good fight as it may be.

So I suppose that we all need to find our own "Mountain Top". Some form of spiritual nurishment, some form of meditative repose where we can silence the fear and the anxiety of the everyday and recharge ourselves. When I look around and I don't see that world I knew as a youngster. Now I see all of us facing the dragons. And in times like this we need comforting things which make us feel safe and warm. So since food is love, where we need comfort there is food. We all have those foods, rich n flavor and the memory of gentle times and happy times . They help us to recharge and feel like the world is not so overwhelming.

So today I offer up one of my favorite comfort foods. Nothing earth shattering but comfy, tasty and a twist on the traditional ( think tomato soup crossed with French Onion Soup Gratin!!!

 Forrest's Totally Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Topper!!

Forrest's Totally Tomato Soup: ( makes 6 to 8 servings )
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine ( or vermouth )
6 gloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups good chicken stock, I like stock not broth
3 carrots grated
2 large white onions chopped
2 cups of fresh basil leaves chopped
1 1/2  teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 (28 ounce) cans of Italian Roma peeled tomatoes
1 pint of cream ( optional )
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine melted butter, onions, carrots, garlic and dried spices in a large pot with the olive oil salt and pepper cook vegetables down till they are soft. Add white wine and let simmer till cooked into the mix.
Add Tomatoes and the red pepper flakes, basil leaves, and the stock.
Stir mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 40 mins.
Take soup in batches and blend till smooth in blender in batches
Return soup to pot and heat up and season to taste.
At this point you can add the cream or not depending on your taste.
Divide and serve in large bowls garnish with the grilled cheese toppers

Grilled Cheese Toppers

16 slices of good quality sourdough bread
8 slices of sliced cheddar cheese
8 slices of American Cheese
2 table spoons of mayo.
3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup sauted onions
6 ounces grated cheddar cheese

melt some butter in a frying pan on medium heat
slather the bread with the mayo on one side
build the sandwiches with 2 slices of cheese ( one of each )
Slather onions and a slight smear of dijon inside each sandwich
Lay the sandwich mayo side down into the buttered pan
Let cook till golden on one side ( the mayo will raise the burning point of the butter )
flip and finish hold warm when done
Taking a round 4 inch cutter or a large can could be used
Punch out the center cut cutting off the crusts with the cutter
Top each soup with a topper.
top with grated cheese and place soup bowl under a broiler till cheese if bubbly and slightly browned.
Serve Hot!!


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