BOOKENDS WE’RE DEFINITELY NOT, or at least not a matched set. And though studies say the odds on making friends after age 30 dwindle, even at 50-plus we didn’t let statistics get in the way. Author Katrina Kenison and I find there’s plenty of common fodder, like writing memoir, rural living, and making lentil soup (again, our recipes differ but that just means we can swap them, as we do writing help and more). With our third books both due from the same publisher just a week apart in January, she and I are about to take our show on the road. The story of that—oh, and Katrina’s lentil soup recipe:
Katrina and I have celebrated our similarities and differences since we met a couple of years ago at a book-industry trade show (read the whole story on her website). We both have corporate-publishing backgrounds, but then chose country, not city, as backdrops for our “second half” of life. Our differences aren’t really so different, we learned when reading the manuscripts last year to each other’s new books-to-be, “Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment,” and “The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life.”
Katrina has been nurturing a husband and two sons for 25 years, the same time I’ve been mothering a sometimes-unruly gaggle of plants. (Yes, the garden has proven to be as worthy and complicated a life partner as any human mate.) Her new book isn’t about gardening, like mine is; it’s about finding herself with an empty nest. But we both explore themes like impermanence, adaptability, and the “what’s next” question we all find ourselves facing over and again—in the seasons of a garden, or a human life.
Maybe owing to decades of cooking for her three hungry guys, Katrina is the kind of guest who always arrives with homemade food in tow: granola, for instance, or cookies, or on her latest of many visits to my place, lentil soup. You’re supposed to put a poached egg on top, but I didn’t, because as soon as I took a taste I just kept eating and never got around to cooking the egg.
“What’s the recipe?” I asked.
“It’s from La Tartine Gourmande’s website—or at least hers was my starting point,” she replied, “but what I made is pretty different.” Katrina (a vegetarian, like I am) had left out the chorizo, and used water and wine, not chicken broth as the base. She’d changed up the spices, too—oh, and instead of white lentils, she’d used French green ones. You know: an adaptation, or total, absolute, and utter improv.
Maybe that’s another common theme, Katrina went on to say:
“You start where you are, with what you have, and you improvise, in cooking and in life.”
Yes, that’s the right recipe. Definitely.
lentil soup, adapted by katrina
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped finely, or one large shallot chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, chopped finely
- 2 celery branches, diced finely
- 4 twigs of thyme, chopped finely
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 branches of parsley or cilantro, plus more to garnish
- sea salt and pepper
- large can of diced tomatoes with their juice
- 2 tablespoons double concentrate tomato paste
- 2 cups dry French green lentils
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups peeled and diced ‘Butternut’ squash
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups white wine (or vegetable broth)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- In large pot, heat oil, add thyme, cumin, turmeric, shallot, leek, garlic, celery, and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, till veggies are softening.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, cook one minute.
- Add lentils, carrots, squash, cook one-two minutes.
- Add water, wine, bay leaves, cilantro, saffron, season w. salt and pepper, cover and simmer till lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Thickness can be adjusted with more liquid or tomato paste.
- To serve: Ladle soup into deep bowls, top with a poached egg, a heaping tablespoon of creme fraiche (sour cream or yogurt can substitute), chopped cilantro or parsley leaves, and a dash of paprika.
more about katrina kenison
- visit her website
- read an excerpt from ‘Magical Journey’
- watch her book video (below)
- visit her Facebook page
about our upcoming events
KATRINA KENISON AND I will be reading together from our two new books, “The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life” and her “Magical Journey” An Apprenticeship in Contentment,” at bookstores and other venues around the Northeast this winter. Come join in our conversation–or invite us to visit your library or bookstore or book group (virtually by Skye, or in person) by emailing using the contact form. Our “duet” events so far:
- Saturday, January 19, 2 PM: at R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT.
- Saturday, January 26, afternoon: at Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT.
- Sunday, January 27, 3 PM: at Buttonwood Books, Cohasset, MA.
- Wednesday, January 30, 7 PM: at New England Mobile Book Fair bookshop, Newton Highlands, MA.
- Sunday, February 24, 3 PM: at the Concord (MA) Bookshop.
- Thursday, February 28, evening: at the Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY, hosted by memoir-teacher and author Marion Roach Smith.
- Saturday, March 2, 1-3 PM: at Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA.
- Sunday, March 3, 3 PM: at Battenkill Books, Cambridge, NY. (I’ll do a “365-Day Garden” lecture that same day at Battenkill, starting at 2 PM.)
My entire 2013 events calendar is here.