Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday: Ben & Chicken Minestrone

Or close:  the classic minestrone would have beans in it, ours had lentils instead.  We grabbed a few boxes of penne pasta from a shelf of donated dry goods in Nickelsville, found onion, cabbage and potatoes in produce donation bin; chopped the veggies and cooked it with precooked chicken breasts, lentils, carrots, 2 red peppers and noodles in a chicken bouillon. Spiced it with red crushed pepper, red paprika and chipotle seasoning cubes, a bit too much of chipotle, HOT, so we cooked a whole extra package of soy noodles (good protein) we found in our bags and added it to the soup + fresh chopped cilantro and italian parsley.

Ben was helping me very expertly in the kitchen: cleaning vegetables and chopping them till he cried over the third onion, his pieces very uniformly cut, then grouped into neat piles, his movements measured and assured.  He also cleaned most of the mess after we tasted the finished soup (yummy), cleverly figuring out how to deal with the fact that the pot was bigger than the sink (we are using  the small church office kitchen) and no garbage disposal - he used his fingers to separate solid stuff from washing water before dumping it into the compost bin.

Even if he didn't tell me I would have guessed from his purposeful manner that Ben had been trained in being self-sufficient - he had completed 4 months training with US navy before he was discharged due to respiratory problems which would be hard to deal with while on the ships and far from hospitals.  Ben is from South Carolina and drove  all the way to Washington state several years ago; 'I totalled my car with that trip'.  He is fairly new in Nickelsville, only since it moved back to U-district last August.

Found Richard and we chatted a bit:  almost everyone is new in Nickelsville, except for him and Ian, and Peggy, of course, who represents Seattle chapter of Veterans for Peace (sponsor of Nickelsville) and often sleeps in the tent city, after her day of being a school teacher.  Rose?  She is out there, on the Ave, but sleeps in shelters now.  Bonnie?  In some sort of facility where her medical problems could be attended to.  Nickelsville newly married Donna and Bruce?  They got a place of their own now, doing well. Billy?  Billy is washing windows downtown, but not staying here.  Wasn't he on some short list for subsidized housing?  Yeah, he was, but got some problems, off the list.  Brian?  No, nobody knows where he is, had some problems, too.  Serius? (sp)  No, don't know what happened to him.  Gina? don't know...  Richard smiled and pointed to his long hair, asking what I think :  they were freshly cut and washed, and just the length to show off their beautiful curls.

Four or five young ladies were sitting around the table by the kitchen tent, politely thanking for the soup even before they tasted it.  A man came over asking what the soup is; he smiled around the chipotle part. Ben was ladling the soup in the plastic food gloves he noticed for use in the church kitchen, he went around and offered it to everyone who might not know it's ready, including the gate guards, who couldn't abandon the post. Before I left Richard introduced me to Manuel from Berlin, who is writing his PhD thesis on tent cities and is visiting several of them for his research.

Here is a link to chicken minestrone soup recipe, very similar to ours.  Minus chipotle, plus beans and a few veg we didn't have.  But, as Brian would have put it - we got the 'soup essence'.

Persons who have been homeless carry within them a certain philosophy of life which makes them apprehensive about ownership.  
-  Jerzy Kosinski

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