it’s about that time of year when the sun starts to hide behind grey clouds for the next 5 months and all the holidays that make me miss home creep up on my calendar. for more than one reason, loneliness has been hitting me hard lately…which you can probably tell by the frequency of my blog posts. writing is certainly a comfort. and so is food photography. and dark chocolate.
being lonely in ukraine is definitely nothing new to me, or any other peace corps volunteer. i’d say the majority of my time here has been just that. dealing with certain events on my own has been a struggle, and often makes the loneliness worse. but i know in the end it will make me stronger. part of it maybe my own fault really, i deleted a lifeline that kept me connected, made the distance seem not as far. i hoped my friends would still think i exist without it, but as time has passed, i’m not so sure that they do.
in some ways i’ve gotten used to being alone, it’s good for the soul to know yourself and how to stand alone, but in other ways i fear all my ‘me’ time has turned me into a slight introvert. i now find large gatherings of pcvs overwhelming (truthfully we can be a bit much to handle all in one place) and was called a ‘house cat’ by one of my pcv friends. jokingly, but still, i really don’t like cats so that definitely made me step back and assess things.
all my time alone has been useful for some things: writing, calligraphy, making a business plan, day dreaming, walking around in my underwear, practicing my dance moves. all i can do without inhibition. but have i become so used to being alone that i can’t handle being social anymore? oh god! have i forgotten what it’s like? how to be fun? probably not but that’s certainly what it feels like. i guess part of me is worried that the isolation and loneliness of my time here has changed me to an introverted house cat i never wished to become.
so in lieu of anyone else to cook for i made some ‘fill your bored house cat cat lady saturday night with cooking’ stew. because this has become my idea of fun on a saturday night. and really the only way to have fun in a ukrainian village on a saturday night.
makes 4 servings
(original recipe from sauce magazine)*
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium celery root, chopped (or 2 stalks celery, minced)
1 cup chopped leek
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small tomato, roughly chopped
100 grams mushrooms, chopped
3 tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cinnamon
3 ½ cups boiling water
1 cube chicken stock
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cup cooked white beans
1.) in a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. add the onion, garlic, leek, and celery, and season with salt and pepper. cook until tender and translucent.
2.) add 1/2 cup of water, the tomato, tomato paste, paprika, and cinnamon. season with a little more salt and pepper.
3.) once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, making sure the tomatoes have broken down.
4.) once the mixture has reduced by half, add the boiling water, cube of chicken stock, potatoes, and carrots. season with a little more salt and pepper.
5.) increase the heat to medium-high until the mixture comes to a boil. cover and reduce the heat back to medium. cook until the vegetables are tender and the potatoes start to break down, about 20 to 25 minutes.
6.) add the beans and stir. cook for another 10 minutes.
7.) spoon into bowls and adjust the seasoning one last time, if needed. garnish with freshly chopped parsley if you’re feeling fancy.
*the original recipe calls for a seitan…which sadly, i don’t have access to here. along with molasses. i’m sure those would be great additions. you can adapt this recipe by adding/subtracting a number of things to your heart’s desire and your tongue’s content.