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New Hope – Mushroom Barley Soup

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                Honey Hollow Farm  

The soup:

Mushrooms have long been associated with medicine and magic. Referenced by the Romans as “food of the gods” and “plants of immortality” by the Ancient Egyptians, mushrooms were fit for consumption by royalty. In fact commoners were forbidden from eating them. Eastern cultures, such as in China and Japan, have been using mushrooms for medicinal purposes dating back two thousand years. The health benefits of the ingredients include:  Selenium (good for bones, nails, hair and teeth as well as being an antioxidant), Calcium, Vitamin D, Copper (antibacterial), Potassium, Fiber, and Zinc — to name only a few.

One of my favorite soups is wild mushroom soup. Although I typically go dairy free with my soups, there is something about the combination of the mushrooms, herbs and cream that make my tastebuds soar. Anytime I see it on a restaurant menu, my eyes light up and  I am compelled to try it. On the other hand, I haven’t always appreciated mushroom barley soup. Perhaps it was barley, but I would typically skip right over it without a second thought.

A few years ago, I was invited for dinner where mushroom barley soup was being served. During that experience, I had a mushroom barley soup awakening and really liked it. In fact, I appreciated the graininess of the barley, as it gives the soup a filling and hearty dimension. Not only did I like the way it tastes but I knew that it was doing wonders for my digestive tract, inviting the kinds of bacteria my intestines needs to stay healthy. Fortunately, I have never had cholesterol issues, but another bonus is that barley has been proven to demonstrate multiple benefits for those battling high cholesterol as well. Gluten-free eaters don’t need to shy away from this soup as the barley can easily be replaced with brown or wild rice which is also rice in nutrients.

I quickly took to making it in my own kitchen, playing with ingredients. I learned that although I like barley in the soup, there has to be just the right ratio of ingredients, my preference heavy on the mushrooms and light on the barley, avoiding a grain overkill. I add other vegetables such as carrots and celery as a base, but I also like to include a bit of fresh chopped spinach for an extra superfood boost.

It has become a soup that I make often for my family and is one of my best sellers when preparing it for others.

What you will need:

  • Soup pot
  • Sautee pan (optional can also use the soup pot)
  • Strainer (s) to clean mushrooms and barley.
  • Chopping knives
  • Chopping board
  • Bowls for ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 30 ounces of mixed mushrooms:

        My preference: 10 ounces of cremini mushrooms, 10 ounces of button mushroom, 4 ounces portabella mushrooms, 4 ounces of shitake mushrooms

  • 1/4 – 1/2 half cup pearl barley (depending on personal preference of barley); for gluten-free users 1/2 cup of brown or wild rice
  • 1/2 half cup of diced carrots
  • 1/2 half cup of diced celery
  • 1 medium to large chopped onion
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cup fresh chopped spinach
  • 1 cup of wine (red or white)
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth (meat eaters can use beef broth).
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaf leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

 Instructions:

  1. Heat pan/pot with with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Add the chopped onions and garlic and mix on low heat.Onions & Garlic
  3. Mix in turmeric and thyme.
  4. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Caramelize the onions and garlic until a golden color. Then turn off.
  6. Wash and slice mushrooms.
  7. Rinse the barley in a strainer.
  8. If the onions & garlic are in the pan, transfer to soup pot.
  9. Mix the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and mushrooms together. First start with heat at off then turn to low to medium heat.
  10. Add broth, barley (or rice), wine and bay leaves to the mix.mushroom mix
  11. Leave on medium heat to low heat.
  12. Will typically take an hour to cook. I don’t like the barley too mushy, so I typically check the barley around 45 minutes later.
  13. Since the barley and rice absorb water, you may need to add more water.
  14. When you are ready to completely turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, add the cup of spinach and stir together.Adding spinach
  15. Salt and pepper to taste.
  16. Serve with bread and a glass of wine.the soup.

The Story:

My blood and breath rely heavily on a lifeline vein connected to a source of polluted air, noise and movement of the city. When I feel lifeless I look its fumes for resuscitation. When I am overwhelmed I take refuge in the comfort of its womb and the chaotic commotion lulls me. No matter how dirty or worn out, like a security blanket, just having it there makes everything ok.

I am an urban junkie. So how did I ever become a farmer’s wife?

I am naturally drawn to metropolitan cities. I thrive on new places and faces. I revel in unfamiliar tongues and cultures. While most people avoid moving, preferring a constant familiar environment, I have always appreciated jumping from one spot to another. Frankly over the last twenty years of my life I have developed a codependent relationship with moving. With each move I look for whatever is lacking in my current surroundings. I have always maintained that I could live anywhere. Yet I have never clearly qualified where and what anywhere would be.  And I have learned that making sweeping statements, like boomerangs, will not only come back to me, but sometimes knock me straight over. This case is not an exception.  After years of effortless movement, I stumbled on move that was not only highly taxing but would take me somewhere beyond my comfort zone.

It was almost two years ago that my husband, who I call Goodman, abandoned the tumultuous finance industry. After a dozen-year stint he had become burned out with the roller coaster that is the world of stocks, bonds and options. For his own sanity, he wanted off the ride. Most people comb the newspaper and the Web for homes or property for sale, Goodman spent days and nights looking for a business. After months of searching, he stumbled on something green, an organic soil amendment company that produces and sells a range of products for growers of all kinds. When I met my husband, it became immediately clear that he is a quirky man, who consumes himself with a healthy lifestyle, reflected in the way he eats. And as the years have passed he has become increasingly obsessed with organic and non-GMO foods. What became extremely magnified, however, is his obsession with living off the grid and his dream to produce anything he would ever need to live. Like a beacon, this business beckoned him home.

Although the business could be run from anywhere, in buying it came the understanding that we would be relocating  to his parents’ farm in New Hope/ Solebury, Pennsylvania, where he would have the agricultural land and facilities to grow the business.

Although we had been out to visit his farm in New Hope many times before, the thought of living and raising a family there, never crossed my mind. It was a great place for a long-weekend, country-life getaway while visiting his parents in Philadelphia, but I was as happy to leave it as I was to arrive.

With a defeated and heavy heart I packed up, sold and/or donated all of our belongings.  Although I physically made the move, I emotionally and mentally refused to leave. I had come to depend on the circle of family, friends and the outspoken Persian community for support. New Hope felt like a world away. In all my years of watching Green Acres reruns, I never would have imagined that I could identify with Eva Gabor’s character. Alas, I was being dragged out of my beloved city living so that my husband could live out his farming fantasies. There I was a modern-day Persian Lisa Douglas, soon-to-be farmer’s wife. We had just six weeks to pack up our lives and move from California to Pennsylvania with two babes in tow.

Set in Bucks County, New Hope is a picturesque little town located on the Delaware River dividing Pennsylvania from New Jersey. I remember the first time Goodman brought me to New Hope while we were dating. I was instantly charmed by the cobble-stoned streets lined with quaint restaurants, roaring bars and kitschy shops. Stumbling on the town library, I fell in love with the delightful little structure that looks like an old church, complete with a steeple. It became clear why it is such a popular tourist destination. It has a certain small-town sweetness to it, making it a nice weekend getaway.  After moving to New Hope, however, I made greater discoveries  that became more appealing. It is a liberal and progressive town with a high level of culture, a bastion of artists – literary, visual and performing. I also developed an affinity for Lambertville which is just over the bridge in New Jersey. It’s less touristy and slightly more edgy reminding me a bit of neighborhoods I love in Brooklyn.

We live just a couple miles out of the town of New Hope on Honey Hollow Farm.

The first time we drove up the quarter-mile driveway  leading to the farm, I felt I had landed in a pastoral paradise. Built in the 1700s, Goodman’s grandparents bought the property back in fifties. His grandfather was among a handful of pioneers who lobbied to preserve the surrounding land and watershed, which is now a Historical National Landmark. Once they passed away, Goodman’s parents who I refer to as Father and Mother Blueblood transformed it into a bed and breakfast until a year before we moved in.

Walking around for the first time, I was captivated, as are most others, by the magnificence of the property. The scene of the stone house, barn, stables, and old creamery surrounded by the majestic sycamore trees was breathtaking. It is the kind of setting that artists dream of painting or photographing. There were stretches of corn fields. Just beyond the fields were the swelling pastures of green, where horses graze, that were sprinkled with a sea of yellow dandelions.

It is also home to the countless other creatures, like the dozens of deer that prance around. In fact, as a major animal activist, Mother Blueblood has rescued a whole slew of furry and feathered friends: horses; goats; pigs; a ram and sheep; a handful of gorgeously-plumed guinea hens to get rid of the ticks, about twenty chickens and two barn cats.

Pulling up to the farm years later, this time with the intention of living there, I was overcome with a sobering shot of reality. This idyllic setting didn’t care for itself. There weren’t little fairies who would feed the animals or extra farm hands to tend to the property. Mother and Father Blueblood had been handling the upkeep of the farm and animals for years. Once we moved in, they continued to make weekly trips out  to help, but the day-to-day chores of caring and cleaning up after the animals would fall to us.  No matter how oppressively hot or bone-chillingly cold, the animals need to be given fresh water and food daily.

Growing up I never had any pets. Being located in a secluded rural setting has taken some serious acclimation, without the animals. Having the animals has set the bar at a whole different level. My personal learning curve moved to a sharp and occasionally insurmountable incline.

It starts with the chickens who rule the roost. They are as free range as it comes, and strut around the property with a sense of entitlement. They will walk straight up to our front door or surround the car as we are trying to pull out of our driveway creating a racket. When the guinea hens chime in with their alarmist cries, it is absolute pandemonium. Here I am in my in-laws home, who are so mindful of our personal space, yet its the chickens who completely overstep all boundaries. They are as dirty as they are loud, leaving watery-brown poop everywhere. It is an odious chore of cleaning out the chicken coop several times a week. I recall one sweltering hot and humid summer day, dragging myself out to feed the animals and clean up the coop. Drenched in sweat and overcome by the gag-inducing scent of overheated animals and fecal matter, I was squatting to the ground, using all my elbow grease to scrape up the poop that had been caked onto the floor. In that moment, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry, wondering when in my previous life would I have ever been caught dead or alive cleaning up after farm animals.  I desperately wanted to click my heels and just be home. The reality was that this had become home.

As for the chickens, the only redeeming quality to having them around are the fresh farm eggs.  We do need to be wary of potentially fertilized eggs. As a farming neophyte, I have unknowingly boiled a few. When I cracked the shell, I discovered a solidified and bloodied baby chick’s embryo. I am sure my ear-piercing shrills of horror carried as far as California.

There are a handful of roosters who inherently fight. They engage in a violent pecking war where the feathers around their necks stand up, reminding me of the collars women wore in the Elizabethan Era. They fight until death or until one is balding and so badly hurt that they find a hiding spot in which to heal and live in banishment. In the dead of winter, when we have been stuck at home for days on end, I feel like a banished chicken, unable to roam where and with whom I want to.

In the first year here I drifted into a state of mental, emotional and physical paralysis, sometimes struggling to get out of bed.  Unlike any other move I experienced, I wasn’t able to adapt to my environment with my usual adventurous and open-minded spirit. It was all I could do to get through my days and weeks tending to the chores of the farm, helping Goodman with the business, as well as running a household. I had completely lost my footing. Before we moved, I had set out to start a soup business, but that all fell by the wayside. It was almost as if my life was the soup and I was an ingredient in it, that just didn’t belong. I felt an overwhelming experience of isolation. The winter months only exacerbate the situation. The cold was never a deterrent in moving back East, but suddenly the winter weather became intolerably bleak.

Yet as a mother, I could ask for nothing better than raising my children on a farm. Compared to life in Los Angeles, childhood on Honey Hollow Farm is magical. Just behind our house and down the grassy lane, lined with the sweetest smelling honeysuckle, are the woods. My daughter has labeled them the fairy woods. It is where the fairies come out of their stout mushroom-capped homes to dance and play under the towering canopies of the trees. Running around outdoors freely, they collect sticks, make forts, climb trees, tromp through the stream and scavenge through the woods looking for treasures.  I recall a playdate that my son had with one of his friends, who is a treasure seeker extraordinaire. Rummaging through the pole barn where the tractors are kept, they discovered a mummified corpse of groundhog and with such pride, as if they had struck gold, carted it out on a big shovel to show me. Of course I squealed and refused to go within 100 feet of it. They, on the other hand, marveled over it with keen fascination and even Lulu, my three year-old daughter, joined in without a trace of fear or disgust. Albeit far from my idea of Eden, they have found themselves in hog heaven. In these moments,  I remind myself of how much healthier it is for them to be experiencing nature and the love of animals in their upbringing, something completely foreign to me.

As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the city, but never the city out of the girl. Footwear remains my weakness and I have bought a collection of wellington boots of various colors and styles since heels and ballet flats aren’t ideal for walking through the muck. I joke that the animals appreciate my sense of fashion and it gives them something to look forward to each day.

In all fairness, it would be dishonest not mention the respect that I have developed for some, but certainly not all, of the animals. I now have a fondness for pigs. Our much-loved pig Boris died just days after Hurricane Sandy hit.  I shocked myself with an uncharacteristic courage, nursing and spoon feeding him in the weeks before. When he finally died, I made the discovery on my own without the protection of Goodman or the kids. Instead of reacting with fear and disgust, I felt peace and relief that he was set free. Pigs, which I always think get a bad rap as filthy animals, are in my humble opinion endearing and intelligent.

The main place that has brought me a great deal of solace, especially through the colder months, is the kitchen. It is my personal quadrant where I experience the familiarity and consolation of what it means to be home. Admittedly,  as far as making soups, I stumbled on the perfect spot. There is no better setting for a bowl of pipping hot soup.  Living on a farm with so much land, Goodman has gone a little grow happy and is producing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. His chest never swells as intensely as when he brings in his own harvest of produce that he managed to germinate from seed, like a bonafide agronomist. Being able to put meals on the table and demonstrate to our kids that we can grow what we eat has been a priceless lesson. Even Kiko, our little food racist, has been dabbling in new things. Farm-to-table cooking has admittedly taken our eating experience not only a more delectable but integrated and organic level. It’s my little silver lining that glimmers at the end of the darker days.

We are in the midst of our second winter – a year and a half after our move. At times, I am still in disbelief. Of all people and places, I would have never connected myself with the life I am living. I no longer ask how I got here. I have come to understand that humor is the answer. It is the protective shield that guards me from feeling broken and displaced like I have never felt before. I always joked that I could live anywhere and it seems that anywhere has found me, leaving me to an unimaginable adventure.

When I think about what soup I identify with my time here at Honey Hollow Farm, I think of mushroom barley with spinach. It may not be the most intuitive choice. Others joke about a soup with chicken, ham, or even venison but in this case I can’t help but to think about soil and all the elements that go into creating it. It isn’t much different than good soup. As elements to a whole experience, mushroom barley soup with spinach says it all for me. It is about the transition from old to new, the soil in all of its wondrous ways and of course the green. The individual ingredients of soup blend together to create a complete living and eating experience rich flavor and texture. I didn’t always like that combination but recently, I have come to long for it.

Mushrooms are undoubtedly one of my top-three favorite vegetables. I can add mushrooms to just about anything: sauces, salads, eggs, pizza or just on its own caramelized with garlic and salt. I typically never tire of consuming fungi, the non-poisoning kind of course, and will eat it in just about all varieties. Although we haven’t mastered growing mushrooms, I am hopeful that one day we can harvest them ourselves. Ironically in this experience, I feel I identify with the way mushrooms grow in the dark, as I do the most growing in the darker months. When spring arrives, the inertia that consumes my spirit and my stride begins to let up and I begin to pop up. It’s no wonder the Persian New Year is the first day of spring, as it is truly a time of regeneration in more ways than one. It is when I discover the beauty that  this life transition has ushered in with it.

Incidentally, the key ingredient in Goodman’s products is mycorrhizae, a fungus – just like the mushrooms in my soup. They are as good in soil as they are in soup. The barley in the soup is like the changes we are making in our lives and on the farm. In farming cover crops are key to good soil. Barley is a kind of cover crop used to transition from one year’s harvest to the next. Not only has moving to the farm been a major rotation in our lives, we also happen to be literally rotating from a conventional farm to an organic one.

Persians can never get enough of eating greens sabsi and typically will eat most of it, raw or cooked. I like to add a little green to the soup as well. Mushroom barley soup does not typically call for greens. But again the soup is a little bit like me. Here I am a Persian woman in New Hope, not a typical ingredient, but one that adds a new dimension to the taste and texture.  The green is also relative to this transition we have made coming to Honey Hollow Farm. The greener life that we discovered and the greener pastures on which we aspire to grow our New Hope.

So my life as not-the-farmer’s wife continues, forcing me to shift my perspective and look at life through different colored-lenses. Albeit out of my noise-polluted comfort zone that is in the midst of the action, I have found a sweet and refreshing spot to raise my family and, for however long, call home.

Ma Petite Choufleur (Cauliflower Soup)

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The Soup:

The cauliflower has had a long and involved history, making its way through various cultures and numerous eras. Once considered a delicacy, today the cruciferous vegetable has settled into a more humble status and is highly understated in its nutritional might. Although it is best known for its creamy white color, the cauliflower can also be purple, green or even orange. Fortunately for cauliflower devotees, this versatile vegetable is typically available all year round. It boast nutrients such as vitamin C, K, Folate (excellent for pre & postnatal moms or anyone who struggles with high blood pressure or anemia), Fiber, and Omega 3. It acts as an anticarcinogen, provides anti-inflammatory nutrients, as well as cardiovascular and digestive support.   Not only is the beloved cauliflower nutritious, it is low in calories.

For many years the cauliflower bored me . Yet, I have discovered that the beauty and taste of the cauliflower lies in the way it is prepared and the ingredients added to it. I usually saute cauliflower.  One of my favorite ways to prepare it is with garlic, turmeric, cumin, cayenne and fresh ginger, making it spicy. Recently, however, I have made a couple of visits to the Lazy Ox Canteen in Los Angeles where I discovered a fantastic cauliflower dish that I was determined to turn into a soup. The dish combines caramelized cauliflowers with fresh mint, green chiles, lime juice and pine nuts. After creating the soup I discovered a new love at first bite. It is a dairy free soup, but with a creamy taste that is accented by a flavorful and savory kick. The best part about it: it’s so easy to make.

Vegan Soup/Gluten Free Soup (Chicken Broth optional for meat eaters)

Serving: 6 small bowls, 4 large bowls

What you will need:

  • Pot
  • Vegetable Chopping Knife
  • Bowls for ingredients
  • Blender
  • Juicer for lime
  • Small pan for the pine nuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large cauliflower head
  • 1 Onion
  • 6 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Lime
  • Generous handful of fresh mint
  • 1-2 green chiles ( I use what I can find – jalapeno, serano)
  • 32 oz. of Broth (vegetable or chicken for meat eaters who want a deeper flavor)
  • Tablespoon of oil (I prefer olive, grapeseed or coconut oil – here I use grapeseed or olive oil).
  • Salt & Pepper (to liking)

For Serving:

  • Pine nuts
  • More Fresh Chopped Mint

Preparing:

  1. Chop the onion and garlic cloves. Saute in the pot with tablespoon of oil of your choice (see above).
  2. Cut the the cauliflower into small florets, discarding the leaves and the base of the stem. The stem is nutritious so I don’t throw it all away.
  3. I usually let the cauliflower sit after it is cut up for about 5 minutes after I have cut it up, which is said to promote the health benefits of the cauliflower.
  4. Saute the cauliflower at a medium heat with the onions, garlic, adding salt and pepper to your liking until the flavors blend together (approximately 3-5 minutes – it is important NOT TO OVERCOOK THE CAULIFLOWER).
  5. Chop up the chiles.
  6. Add chiles to the cauliflower blending in its flavor to the saute (1-2 minutes).
  7. Add the broth.
  8. Cook at a medium heat until the cauliflower is soft – not mushy. (15-20 minutes) Typically I frequently check by putting a fork into a cauliflower floret.  Making the cauliflower mushy kills its nutritional value.
  9. Ladle the soup mixture into a blender, leaving extra broth in case the soup is too thick and you need more liquid.
  10. Add handful of mint leaves
  11. Blend the soup – I usually don’t make it totally smooth as it is nice to have chunks of the cauliflower. If you prefer to have it smooth, blend it completely. Add more broth/water if it is too thick.
  12. Return soup to the pot, adding the lime juice (add more or less depending on your liking).
  13. Salt and pepper to liking.

Serving:

  1. Saute the pine nuts in a pan for a minute or two to give them a roasted flavor.
  2. Sprinkle freshly chopped mint to each bowl/cup
  3. Add teaspoon of pine nuts to each bowl/cup
  4. Break out the loaves of crusty bread and maybe add a glass of white wine to your setting.
  • I usually find that by putting the soup in the fridge for a day or two, it tones down the taste of the peppers.

The Story:

Cats – they have never really been my pet of choice.

Without hesitation, I will always pick a dog over cat. My fondness for canines goes unrivaled, as they are such engaging and loyal animals. The only exception to my puppy  love were my two prized, pet parakeets that I was gifted for my 8th birthday. Mysteriously, they disappeared from their cage one summer day when it was perched outside on our back porch. I always believed that they flew away freely, as they were meant to be. Years later I learned that they were eaten by my neighbor’s cat. Amazingly enough, I got over it and I have never consciously harbored any negative feelings towards cats based on that incident.

I actually consider cats to be enigmatically enchanting and beautiful creatures. They move with such nobility, have incredibly penetrating stares and behave so surreptitiously.  Yet, as fascinating as they are, their energies emit something that I have never been able to be fully comfortable with. Try as I might to bond with them, I feel they sense my unease in their presence. This would explain why while cat sitting for a dear friend, as I tried to stroke little pumpkin, she clawed at me drawing blood from my hand. It was a minor scratch, but majorly indicative of my relationship with cats. We made fine acquaintances, but certainly not bosom buddies.

As my lifelong companion irony would have it, I would have to face my cat issues, as I gave birth to a daughter who is undoubtedly feline. Lulu is a true dichotomy –  one half feisty alley cat and the other a bewitching lap cat. She is our updated version of Bastet – the ancient egyptian goddess whose body was that of a woman with the head of a cat.

Lulu entered our lives with an inherently frisky spirit.  She will not hesitate to attack, even those she loves most. Look at her the wrong way, touch her when she wants to be left alone, do something she doesn’t like or tell her something she doesn’t want to hear – she will pounce and strike. She has a remarkably piercing gaze and will engage in a showdown with her eyes only. She is certainly no stranger to biting. We are constantly having to be mindful of “declawing” her as she will scratch and leave her mark. It is as if we have taken in a feral street cat and are futilely trying to domesticate her.

Her main victim, incidentally, is also the one she person she will defend fiercely, her older brother, who has dubbed her “the tiger”.  Although we have all endured some sort of casualty of Lulu’s wrath, Kiko bears the the brunt. There have been a number of times that he has gone to school with her scratch marks on his face. The first time it happened, his teacher, who was slightly confused, gently confronted me about “the tiger” who scratched his face. Needless to say, she was relieved to learn of his amusingly apt moniker.

We are doing our best to redirect her aggressiveness in positive ways lest she hurt a undeserving kid in the sandbox. And in spite of the challenges that lie ahead in mothering Lulu, as I am no cat whisperer, I hope to preserve her fiery character so that she will always be able to hold and protect her own.

All things being even, however, Lulu is truly one of the most delightful beings I have ever encountered. She gives affection like no other and oozes with sweetness. She will curl up on my lap whenever I sit down, nestle in bed with me while I sleep, and cling her body next to mine when I am in the bathroom in the morning or at any other time of the day. She loves to be embraced. Much like a cat, she will knead her feet into my body and will make a humming sound that is suggestive of a purr.

With no surprise, for halloween she chose to be a kitty and insisted on wearing her purple, felted ears and tail for weeks on afterwards. Tidiness is also important to Lulu and she will often be found cleaning herself. Curiously enough, she is fastidious about hygiene between her toes.

In true cat form when someone wants to play with her when she isn’t yet at ease, she quickly will scamper off until she is gradually ready to come out. She invariably determines what she will and won’t do and who she will and won’t engage with.

Interestingly enough, Lulu will typically choose an animal over a doll any day of the week. She adores stuffed animals, whereas I have always cringed at the sight of them. In her baby stroller, she will often push around her most precious and extremely tattered sleep sheep, who has transformed from being soft and creamy colored to brown and slightly crusted in texture because he’s toted around everywhere.  When spotting a dog, she will race to catch up with it and no matter the size she fawns over it as one would over a small infant. She fantasizes over horses and sports an ear-to-ear permagrin when she actually gets to ride one.

For Lulu, however, the most beguiling creature is the cat. She is absolutely captivated by them and lives for an opportunity to play with one. For her, sighting a live cat is like sighting a celebrity. She gushes with excitement and hardly knows what to do with herself. Comically whenever she sees one she chases it down and the cat, completely overwhelmed, will scurry away from her. One would think she’d know better and give it space. Yet she pursues her goal of hugging the cat with such joyful determination. She will camp out on our front porch endlessly just to spot the neighborhood cats and her fondness for the strays is heartwarming. Being a nurturing soul, she  keeps a watchful eye over them and dutifully leaves them food.

Incidentally food is something for which Lulu has the utmost appreciation.

Mon petit choufleur is known among the French as a term of endearment that they use to refer to their beloveds. Taking some literary liberties, I have given Lulu the pet name of ma petite choufleur, as it fits her so well.

In literal translation, choufleur is a cauliflower. Turns out the cauliflower is one of Lulu’s favorite vegetables. Unlike her brother’s severe aversion to vegetables, Lulu will eat most of them with pleasure. Somehow they are all her self-proclaimed favorites. Recently, in all my soup making, Lulu has become my little muse. Her eagerness to try new things inspires me. She is always open to the experience of soup. There are very few bowls of soups that she won’t greet with wide eyes and a big smile. The highest form of approval is to find her with her head back and the soup bowl tipped over covering her face, catching every last drop.

The sweetest sight, however, is that of Lulu propped over the table, face first in the bowl, lapping the soup with her tongue, just as a kitten would.

It has been said that children choose their parents. How incredibly fitting. Although I would not choose a cat for a pet, somehow ma petite choufleur, my little kitty has found her way to me.