West African Peanut Soup

I prep our dinner a few hours in advance. The naan dough has just enough time to rise, and my favorite bamboo cutting board, my only cutting board, is clean. Which is only to say, it’s on the drying rack, waiting for me. I don't need to revisit yesterday’s mess. I am only just beginning, today. Somehow this is progress. Sea level is strangely ravishing when you’ve been treading water for years. I chop the kale like I give a damn, because i finally do. I rinse the rice, because this year I am not too tired. I’ve been told you should always wash your rice, for both texture and health, but for two years I couldn’t bother, so I would convince myself it wasn’t all that important. Today, I tell myself it is absolutely necessary, like the fate of our lives rests on this simple, mundane detail. Maybe I just love rituals. But either way, I am eager to check a box I don’t even believe in. I check it with such a strange pride that even my most reflective state is not able to untangle. 

He comes in the door quickly, with a record in hand. Today is the day. With visceral instinct, knowing this urgency far surpasses words exchanged or efforts to unfural our day, he gets to work, unwrapping speakers, connecting wires. I serve this soup, slowly and humbly, like a work of art. With my back turned, and my ear more in tune, I listen to the sound of shinny bright new, and uniquely unblemished. It sounds like a dream we’ve long shared, overly simple, and yet forever a dream. It’s as if we have just begun. I think maybe we have. The record player is finally here(!) Instantly it feels like it’s always been with us, if only in spirit. He sings without effort or prompt. I tell him, maybe for the first time, that his voice was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. As if love has reason, and reason is worthy of love. It intoxicates me, makes me weak at the knees, and when I hear it I feel hopefully unknown and completely found. I decide that a person could marry someone, man unseen, sight untold, just from hearing this voice. I delight in how this feels. The innocence, the simplicity, the...

I feel so young. I am so young. But earlier today, I met a girl who was twenty three, and it seems like I will always and forever be free at twenty three. I still feel the exact same way. There are just two bright little people by my side. And him, he is still here. Why does it feel so brand new to see him and feel him, right here. 

It's Monday, but it was only just Sunday when we rode our bikes on a day date, after making day love, eating lunch at our forever favorite. While there, we wait in line, because there is always a line, and we don't mind, it's Portland, and there was always a line, before lines were ever a thing. He asks me how i feel, if i feel any different being 31. “I feel stable, but youthful, more patient and fun. Maybe even kind of balanced?” I once thought balance was boring, but i most certainly don’t feel boring. “I guess i just finally feel like how i always imagined this would be. Sharing a life with someone, making a family, it all finally feels like how I thought it would, how i wanted it to feel, my version of bold and unconventional.” My day dreams did not disappoint, but maybe somewhere in the middle they did. How do we know if our dreams are still in transition or if they have come to their full fruition, I do not know, but I am most thankful that I tried some patience and that I waited. For this, if only just this...

Back at home, on that sweet Monday, Jose Gonzalez plays after our soup, with a sink full of dishes, past, devoured and done, but certainly not forgotten. It plays, it sounds, it resonates. "While were still young." I grab his body and secure it safe to mine. We sway, I give in. The dishes can wait. They are always there, be he is not. Now he is. I rest beneath his clavicle, on top of the humble definition that is...him. It's still him. I flash back to a stinky, dirty dance studio (the best kind of dance studios) and see those special students improving across the spacious wooden floors. The space that held them so sweetly, just like this kitchen, only this time it's us. I remember how I felt, oddly enough at twenty three, teaching them, growing them, learning from them. I remember that phrase "while we're still young," and how even then it ripped my heart into a million little pieces. It's as if I knew I would be here looking back, comparing and contrasting. It's as if i knew it was only just beginning. This album will always be relevant, and perhaps he knew that, coming home with eager intention. He did not ask which record to play first. He just did. He just knew. I did not ask what he wanted for dinner. I just made it. I just knew.  

With none of this exchanged between us, we eat this soup. We listen to the album. He tells me this is his favorite thing I have ever made. But I already know. I tell him this is one of my favorite albums of all time. Surely he already knows. 

 

African Peanut Soup

Recipe from Cookie + Kate

Serves 4

6 c. vegetable broth

1 red onion, chopped

5 gloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. chilli powder or more to taste

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper 

3/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1/2 c. tomato paste

1 large bunch of red kale, chopped

1 1/2 c. cooked rice of choice 

3/4 c. crushed peanuts for serving 

Method:

Bring vegetable broth to  boil in a large dutch oven or pot. Add in onion, garlic, ginger and salt. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 20 minutes. 

While broth is simmering, rinse and de stem the kale, and chop into thin ribbons. Set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine peanut butter and tomato paste. Add about 1 c. of hot broth and whisk to combine. 

Once broth has simmered for 20 minutes, pour peanut butter and tomato mixture back into the broth. Mix until combined. Add in kale and let simmer for about 15-20 more minutes. 

Cook rice and prepare naan while soup is finishing up. 

Serve over a generous scoop of rice, and or this naan recipe, and a generous handful of crushed peanuts.