Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The end is nothing . . . The road is all!

He was able to feel, kneeling beside old Sada, 

the preciousness of the things of the altar
to her who was without possessions . . . 

. . . the tapers, the image of the Virgin, the figures . . . 
the Cross that took away indignity from suffering
and made pain and poverty a means of fellowship with Christ . . . 

He seemed able to feel all it meant to her to know 
that there was a kind woman in heaven,
though there were such cruel ones on earth. 
Old people who have felt blows and toil and known the world's hard hand, need, even more than children do, a woman's tenderness. 

Only a Woman, divine, could know all that a woman can suffer. 

                                          ~Willa Cather

                                            Death Comes for the Archbishop

This gorgeous novel takes place in the stark beauty of the 19th-Century American southwest. The above passage describes a night when Father Latour, a French bishop on extended assignment to New Mexico, had long endured a period of "coldness and doubt." His faith had fled, his prayers were "empty words," his "soul had become a barren field. He had nothing . . . to give his priests or his people."

On that December night, he encounters a poor bondswoman whose mistress has forbidden her to worship for 19 years. She escapes in the snow and makes her way to the church. He opens the locked door to her, and as she falls before the altar in joy and tears, Father Latour "received the miracle in her heart into his own, saw through her eyes, knew that his poverty was as bleak as hers."

The snow had stopped, the gauzy clouds 
that had ribbed the arch of heaven
were now all sunk into one soft white fog bank
over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. 

The peace without seemed all one
with the peace in his own soul.

As you can see, I'm having trouble leaving Cather's beautiful prose. And I haven't spent enough time in this harsh, lovely part of the world that she came to love and understand. This simple, earthy dish celebrates both. It's from a 1980s Arizona contest cookbook. This soup's prize winner: the lucky ones you make it for! Plus Carolyn Ness of Gilbert, Arizona.


Sweet potatoes already taste like candy, what a crime to frou frou them up with sugar and marshmallows. On their own, they're hearty and robust and so wonderfully orange. 

These are dressed with cilantro, red onion, a touch of jalapeno, and a cooling lime cream.  

Perfect for a December night. 

Sweet Potato Soup with Lime Cream

                                      4 medium to large sweet potatoes, unpeeled
                                      2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
                                      1 small or half of a large red onion, diced
                                      2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
                                      1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
                                      salt to taste
                                      water to cover
                                      chicken broth (optional)

                                       2 limes
                                       3/4 cup sour cream (I used light; OR try plain yogurt)

                                       pepper to taste

lime cream, and the contest cookbook!
Cover the sweet potatoes with water in a medium saucepan and cook gently until tender, about 50 minutes. Drain, reserving stock. Cool, peel, and chop the potatoes. Saute onions and peppers in butter until the onions are soft. Add this, with the stock, to the potatoes and stir. If the mixture seems not liquid enough for your taste, add a cup or more of stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Puree the mixture in batches in a blender, and return to the cooktop to warm and meld the flavors further. Add more stock (or chicken broth) if desired.

Zest the two limes and stir the peel into the sour cream. Add the juice of both limes and salt to taste. 

To serve, spoon the soup into bowls and add a dollop of lime cream. 
Pass cilantro and black pepper.

Love the holidays! but I always indulge too much. 
It can be a treat to leave the chocolate behind
for a basic, healthy, earthbound soup that reminds us as much as bells and carols do: 
we're made and loved by a heaven full of mercy and goodness.


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