Monday, November 8, 2010

Go forth, conquer, and bring back a great story to share with friends.

I've been doing a lot of thinking, reminiscing, and some crying today. A dear friend lost her very short battle against stomach cancer on Friday night. To say I was shocked would be an understatement; Oyana was young, strong and full of fight. In our few years of friendship, she taught me many things, and the biggest message I take away is to go, conquer, and bring back the stories to share. She was an excellent story teller, and she let nothing hold her back. She wore a hat like no other woman. She told a story like no other. She had even gone back to school and had just finished her first year of law school when she received her diagnosis. Law school! In her mid-thirties! Not many people make the huge decision to go back for a new degree after the first time around, and I bet even fewer go back for something as heavy as a law degree.

Often times, when I need to think, I cook. I am sure that seems odd to some, but honestly, while I am in the kitchen, I can mindlessly throw a simple meal together and process things. Whether it was the onion or my memories that brought the tears today didn't matter, I was able to remember. And not just Oyana, but Pastor Ray, who also lost his battle with stomach cancer; Andy, our church organist who passed away only a year ago. Andy played not only at my wedding, but my parent's wedding and he taught me to play piano. My grandfather, 18 years ago next month, which doesn't even seem possible. I can still remember dinner with him the night before.

Their lives touched mine, and I am better for it. There is sadness, but peace. I don't know God's plan, I certainly don't understand it, but I know it is there and He has his reasons.

In celebration of Oyana and all those in my life now and past, I will have dinner in tonight, with my husband, and count my many blessings. I wish I could share this simple soup with Oyana's family and friends back east and all the friends who are grieving with me. I think my Grandfather would approve of the kielbasa.

White Bean Soup with Kielbasa

1 pound Navy Beans, soaked
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons fresh sage, torn or sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine
64 ounces chicken stock
1 pound turkey kielbasa, diced
1 bunch chard, center ribs removed then sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot over medium heat, saute the onion, carrots and celery until softened and slightly carmelized, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and combine, allowing to cook until the sage is fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.

Add the beans and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, allowing to cook until the beans are nearly done, about two hours. Add the kielbasa and simmer an addition 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir the chard in. Enjoy with loved ones, some red wine and a loaf of crusty bread.

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