The weather has gotten cold, Winter is here.
Winter is the time for reflection, nature invites us, in this season, to turn away from the business of the world, turn inward, and begin to listen. Listen to the longings of our hearts. Just like the garden is quite at this time of the year while waits, rests, and listens.
Even though the rows of canned jars sit quietly on the shelves in the cellar, my kitchen is once more full of life and forever vibrating. Especially in the Winter it is so cozy to wake up to the smell of a baked breakfast and the warmth that it brings to the body and to the soul. My book, my faithful companion, speaks loudly to me while it invites me to reflection, as I sip my soy milk matcha.
I need to “conjure up the feelings I want to feel”, this is what in this time I must learn. Yes, but trust me, it isn’t so easy. It isn’t easy to keep your chin up when cold wind keeps hitting your face, day after day, week after week, year after year. Thankfully I have always been strong and stubborn, I never let the events of life beat me down, but now, at times, I get tired and overwhelmed and then I remember the words in my book: “Surrender spiritually”. In order to live a free life you must commit to freedom, and this sounds easier than what in reality is. You have to identify your controlling and worrying habits as wrong, and furthermore, as the very reason of why you keep staying stuck on the wrong track not being able to find or tap into the bright energy of the Universe. Control and worry are an armour, that people raised in toxic environments, develop for self-protection. That environment is not the world outside, that feeling of powerlessness is not you, but it is simply there to be overcome, to be defeated and leave space to all the feelings of love, warmth, acceptance, caring that all of us deserve.
Ego seeks to divide and separate, spirit seeks to unify and heal. Judgment separates, compassion unifies. These are great words, which lead to reflection. In order to live a more authentic life you have to strive to replace judgment with compassion. All of us need a process during which to learn to approach people and situations with a more compassionate attitude, sort of like training our minds to see ourselves in the position of the person standing in front of us. Judgement is fed by fear, while compassion is fed by love. The Course in Miracles by Gabby Bernstein says: “every communication is either and extension of love or a call for love”. A lot of the unpleasant behaviour we see in people, it is nothing else but the result of fear, fear of the world all around. Aggressive folks are not strong or courageous, actually the opposite is true. Aggressive people are fearful and scared. Their aggressive attitude is the shield they erected as the response to an existence, which has been too invasive of their private field, invasive, sometimes brutally. This is why “The Universe has your back” at some point says: “attack is a call for help”. Judgment, therefore, is an emotional pain”. “Attack, pain, fear , judgement, and any form of separation are calls for help”. Judgment, therefore, is an emotional pain that you want to relieve. as we said judgment is dictated by fear, and the presence of fear is, right there, your resistance to love. The way back to love is to surrender, to soften your facial features, feel the tension in your neck and shoulders, and letting go, finding a state of relaxation. This state of relaxation allows the loving energy of the Universe through you and gives you a state of peace and understanding that Oneness is our true nature. When the concept of “Oneness” is understood we realize that compassion is the key to emotional freedom. What is exactly this “Oneness”, that the spiritual teachers talk about? The Oneness to which they refer is our one desire to be happy and free. We all are in this together. Our presence or absence in other people’s life is not by chance, we must learn and teach respect by giving it and expecting it. By expecting respect we help people around us understand healthy boundaries. The same thing we teach to our children we should strive to find in the adult world. In our relationship with our spouse, our parents, our boss, our best friend, our neighbour: I begin where you end, you end where I begin. Your pain is my pain, and your joy is my joy, because if we truly consider things we will notice that one’s loss is everyone’s loss and one’s win is everyone’s win. As we said, we are in this together.
We must be willing to shed odd patterns and open our arms to new ones, which will lead us to a new way of being. The transformation is not easy but the results will be stunning. Tension, stress, and negativity will clear the way to serenity, balance, peace, and positivity. When we approach life with a kind attitude, and start to see things through the eyes of love, life will answer in a more pleasant manner.
Pleasant just like the smell of hot soup simmering on the stove on a cold Winter day. Pleasant like the laughter of children, pleasant like the taste of delicious food. When I think of Winter food, I think of Zuppa Frantoiana, a hearty soup straight from the ancient Tuscan Tradition. A soup made with ingredients that you can find in the garden during the winter in Tuscany: cabbage, kale, potatoes, pumpkin and red beans.
Zuppa Frantoiana with Kale and Squash (Traditional soup from Lucca, Italy)
If I were to pick the one soup that I thought was the most traditional, the most ancient, and the most typical of my hometown Lucca, Zuppa Frantoiana would certainly be the one! This is the soup that appears on all the menus of the most authentic and rustic restaurants. The name “frantoiana” means from the “frantoio”, the place where the olives are squeezed and made into olive oil. The soup has this name because it is always served topped with fresh, local extra virgin olive oil.
This recipe calls for fresh herbs, but dried will also work. As for the beans: I usually use Tuscan red beans (pinto beans could be a good alternative), which I soak overnight and then cook in water for 2 hours. This method makes the beans and the soup more digestible and the nutrients are more easily absorbed. If you find yourself in a pinch with time, canned beans will work fine.
Every week I chose a legume, beans or lentils, that I soak overnight, usually on Sunday night. On Monday morning I rinse the legumes and place them in a crock pot and cook them for a few hours. I always put one long piece of Kombu or Wakame seaweed with my beans. This enriches their flavor and they, also, will be assimilated and processed by our digestive system more easily. This method of cooking the beans in a crock pot is very convenient. If I have to leave the house for the day, I just set the heat on low. In this way I always have cooked ready beans in the fridge, ready to be used!
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp fresh sage
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
2 slices of pancetta or bacon
3 cups cooked pinto beans
3 cups cubed squash
5 big leaves kale
Salt and Pepper
Serve with: 2 slices of toasted country bread with garlic
Pour olive oil in the pot, add diced onion and garlic, and minced herbs. Stirring often cook until onions start to wilt. Incorporate the pancetta or bacon and wine. Turn the heat to medium high and cook until the liquid is almost all absorbed. Incorporate the beans. If you are using beans that you soaked, add some of their juice. Add 2 Tbsp of salt and water, at least 6 cups.Cut the squash into cubes and add it to the soup. Cook for 30 minutes on medium low with the lid on the pot. Cut up the kale discarding the hard stems, the white part and keep the soft dark green leaves. Add to the soup and cook for 20 more minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Turn on the oven to 350 and on a baking sheet place several slices of bread (preferably homemade, or homemade style), consider two small slices or one big slice per person. When bread has turned golden on the edges remove from the oven and let it cool. When bread is cooled enough to handle, cut a clove of garlic in half and brush lightly the bread slices with the half clove. This will infuse the bread with the tangy full flavor of garlic and it will exalt the taste of the soup. Cut the bread slices in chunks and place them in the plates. Pour soup on top. To complete your work of art, drizzle olive oil on the soup and “Buon Appetito!” The steaming good flavor of the Tuscan countryside is being served on your table!