Here for It w/ R. Eric Thomas, #197
Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: Aaaagh, part deux. Plus, there was another debate? Trump is immune to reality, and another visit to Lovecraft Country.
For reasons unknown to me I decided that this week was Soup Week. “It’s Soup Week!” I announced to David, as if that was a thing that we do. “Oh boy!” he said, humoring me as usual. Who doesn’t love soup?! I must admit I’m not really a big soup person; I almost never make soup save for the occasional late-winter vegetable soup that is never as satisfying in execution as it is in my mind. I am frequently tempted by the food hoarder allure of getting a soup and a sandwich when I go out to lunch but I rarely indulge. A soup-and-sandwich deal (sometimes with chips!) really feels like you’re winning at menu browsing. Two meals! The price of one! Limited time only! Void where prohibited. I see the soup-and-sandwich deal in the same way that I once saw the entree choices at a bottomless brunch restaurant. The brunch was one flat price, say $25, for an entree, coffee, and bottomless mimosas. (I was like 29 at the time and had yet to understand that this is never the halcyon dream it appears to be. Ah, to be young and foolish and in search of cheap Cava again.) As is usually the case with brunch, I found that I wanted a sweet and a savory option so I asked the server how I could go about ordering the waffle and the enchilada. The server huffed and puffed! This simply wasn’t done! The deal! The mimosas were limitless (supposedly) but the entree selection had to follow a strict code. It was the LAW. We went back and forth, trying to find creative solutions to the problem of me wanting two meals and the server, rightfully, telling me that I was deranged. Finally, I said, “Well, what if I pay for two brunches?” In my mind, I envisioned two full plates and twice the number of numberless mimosas. I have no idea what my plan was here; brunch ended at noon and by the time we were finished negotiating it was already 11:30. But I got my waffle and I got my enchilada and even now I think back on it and I think “That was a victory.” That’s how I feel when I consider getting a soup and a sandwich. It feels like brokering some sort of bipartisan agreement between the food factions. It feels like stopping time in the middle of bottomless brunch. It feels like freedom.
I did not have a plan to make sandwiches this week. That’s my fault and I own that. But I decided I wanted soup. It’s that time of year, after all. And I kept seeing people tweet about soup and David’s garden was tossing up all manner of fresh produce for the souping and I thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing, in a truly terrible week, to have something as warming and unifying as soup. When the world is telling you to kick rocks, get your Strega Nona on.
It was Soup Week! Every week should have a theme, I think. Especially a culinary theme. I go through phases of wanting to cook and not wanting to cook, but when I’m in the mood to cook it’s especially exciting to throw a theme on it. Put up some decorations. Really gay the place up. There was a period in my early 30s—about a year or so—where every week was Cake Week. This isn’t a euphemism. I made at least one cake or batch of cupcakes every week. I was actually spiraling, obviously, but I wouldn’t thou like to spiral deliciously? Cake Week 2020 is still TBD. We’ll see. I was also going to two hours of spin class every other day during the original Cake Week/Month/Year and had the metabolism of a person who was running from something. I just don’t think I’m there anymore. But we shall see!
Anyway, it was Soup Week! In college I joined a couple of student clubs but my favorite was Soup Club. It was a club where we brought soup. That was the whole thing. It was the most rewarding experience of my time at Columbia despite the fact that I didn’t really make any friends in Soup Club and I feel like they met irregularly and, as I recall, the soups I made weren’t that good. Nevertheless! I per-bisque! Soup Club had such a blessedly simple ask—just make soup and then eat soup and then go home—and I appreciated that immensely. I couldn’t figure out how to join one of the secret societies on campus (they were secret) and I couldn’t figure out how to get into the coed literary salon that reportedly threw wine parties where everyone was pansexual, but soup I got. Soup I understood. Soup didn’t require me to come out, I thought, as I tossed a confetti of cilantro across the surface of yet another underspiced butternut squash soup.
I only made two soups for Soup Week because a) that’s a lot of soup for two people and b) I got stressed out midway through because Shay Spence, my favorite Instagram food blogger, posted a recipe for a pot pie that I simply needed to eat immediately. I asked for prayers online as I struggled with this dilemma—a pie! During Soup Week! Sacrilege! Many people responded that pot pie is a soup with crust but I am a soup fundamentalist and I couldn’t bring myself to cross over. It’s a really time of turmoil over here. I’m doing a lot of soul-searching. Wait, sorry, I’m doing a lot of soup-searching.
Would you like to hear about the soups?! I thought about taking pictures because they were quite beautiful but I’m attempting to do this thing where I just enjoy parts of my life without turning them into content. Seems fake but whatever. So, there’s no soup pictures, but I do have the recipes. Both were adapted from other people’s recipes, so feel free to click on the link to the originals or make mine or do whatever you want or bake a cake every day or drink wine and be pansexual. It’s Soup Week and that means freedom!
Soup #1! Corn Chowder!
I used Dr. Jenn M. Jackson’s recipe and doubled it. The doubled portions are below so, if you don’t want twice as much soup, cut it in half! Magic!
One yellow onion (I might have used two actually)
6 carrots, diced
2 diced jalapeño peppers with seeds removed
2 cups of fresh sweet corn (cut it right off the cob!)
4 medium gold potatoes diced
Lots and lots of garlic (like mimosas, the limit does not exist)
Cajon seasoning (or smoked paprika, Old Bay, cayenne pepper—I just grabbed spices from my shelf and went to town)
Rosemary (some sprigs!) (I actually don’t think I put any rosemary in here. But you could!)
Salt and pepper
8 Bay leaves (I am a huge Bay leaf proponent)
8 cups of chicken broth (or two of the boxes)
16 oz light cream
- Sauté onion, carrots, pepper, corn, potatoes, garlic and seasoning. Onions always take longer than the creation of the world to get translucent. Why are recipes always lying about how long onions take. What is gained from this deception. Anyway, sauté for a while; the potatoes will need it anyway. Add rosemary once everything has started to get incorporated. Get a little char on the onions. Put your shoulder into it.
- Add chicken broth. I actually used bouillon powder and it worked great. I have homemade broth frozen in my freezer but it might actually be stock and not broth and I can’t remember and I have no idea how to find out.
- Add cream and Bay leaves.
- Bring to simmer for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, across town, you might want to make some protein to go in it. I chose Italian Sweet Peppers and Shrimp. Here’s what I marinated the shrimp in before broiling them:
Juice of two limes
Garlic (about one clove, crushed)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chili garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
BACK TO THE SOUP. Once it’s done simmering, you can put an immersion blender in it but I don’t have one so I took the Bay leaves out and poured it in my Vitamix. It was great! So many dishes used! Chaos.
Soup #2! Hearty butternut squash chicken soup!
For this one I combined a recipe that Chasten Buttigieg sent me with a Martha Stewart recipe that my friend Dana sent me and then took a bunch of stuff out and put a bunch of other stuff in. CHAOS.
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium (I absolutely will not ever cut up another butternut squash ever again, so I just bought a package of the pre-cut squash from the market and adjusted the recipe. NO RAGRATS.)
2 sweet potatoes (I used these white sweet potatoes that I found at the fancy Caucasian market and they were great.)
2 small yellow onion, rough chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I’m sure I used more but, do what you want.)
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp garlic
Sweet paprika (enough)
1 jalapeño, diced and seeded
3.5-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1 can coconut milk
3 Bay leaves
(Could add sage) (but I did not)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
Juice of one lemon.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss together chicken (no need to chop it), squash, jalapeno, sweet potato, onion, garlic, and oil; season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast. The veggies will take about 25 minutes if you are cooking it in my oven, which I don’t imagine you will be but just in case. The chicken will take about 35 minutes.
- Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Transfer veggies to a medium pot and add broth, coconut milk, maybe sage, more s&p, bay leaves, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer 20 minutes. Blend.
- Discard skin and bones from chicken (the skin will be so good but only eat a little of it because your doctor recently told you that your cholesterol went down and you want to make her happy). Cut meat into small pieces (oh, I guess you could have cut the chicken up earlier) and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice. Martha says you can throw fresh cilantro on top but I need to stop buying bunches of cilantro that I am going to let perish in the fridge so that’s a no from me.
Oh, I suppose I should put articles in here also, since that’s what we usually do around here.
The VP Debate Is A Meeting That Should Have Been An E-Mail
Y'all got Sen. Kamala Harris behind a sneeze guard at a salad bar talking about "mission: accomplished." I don't think so, darlings. I really do not. These two people, plus a debate moderator, are going to be boisterously orating for 90 minutes and you know at least one of them is going to be saying every single thing with her whole chest. Meanwhile Pence was sitting next to Gwyneth Paltrow at the casino in Contagion 10 days ago? What in blue blazes?! (Pardon my french.)
Everything's Going Great Despite What You're Seeing, Hearing, And Thinking
Trump stepped out on to the balcony after filming a high-res promotional video in favor of a public health crisis, and promptly ripped his mask off like Tom Cruise revealing yet another Mission: Impossible disguise. It was intended as a show of strength by a man who, according to the latest information about the virus from the CDC, is still highly contagious and according to his doctor is "not out of the woods yet." But who cares about woods? You want to talk about woods, go throw on a mask and have a tea party with Henry David Thoreau. Donald Trump has decided not leave the woods as it is easier to just burn them down around himself.
A Scaredy-Cat Recap Of Lovecraft Country Episode 8: "Jig-A-Bobo"
Episode 8, titled "Jig-a-Bobo," is straight-up one of the scariest, if not the scariest, episode of the series thus far and it's also masterpiece with talents firing on all cylinders. Written and directed by showrunner Misha Green, the episode deftly weaves together its mythos with the show's propensity to hang out in historical footnotes, highlighter just going H.A.M. Visually it's stunning, with nary a careless frame or moment.
Let’s hang out!
John Darnielle, Leah Johnson, Daniel Lavery, Amber Sparks, and R. Eric Thomas—join Dungeon Master Matt Lubchansky for this classic tabletop role-playing game with a literary twist. Tune in for murder, golems, murder golems, humanoid turtle people, and labor disputes at Lightning Bolt Literature’s Masquerade of the Necromantic Plague! If you’ve never played D&D before, don’t worry—most of our players haven’t either.
Random Thing on the Internet
Today is National Coming Out Day and so I wanted to re-up this piece I wrote about comings out plural for O, the Oprah Magazine last winter!
(Could add sage) (but I did not),