Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Proof is in the Puking

"Just as the soul fills the body, so God fills the world. Just as the soul bears the body, so God endures the world. Just as the soul sees but is not seen, so God sees but is not seen. Just as the soul feeds the body, so God gives food to the world."  --Marcus Tullius Cicero 

Usually when we think about the interconnectedness of humanity we imagine sharing love and pain and grief and fulfillment. However, I have found there is joy in discovering commonality in very specific experiences that, when we're young and naive, we imagine are not as universal as they really are.

It's about to get gross.

When I was around eleven years old my mom dished up my dinner and I went in my room to watch The Mickey Mouse Club. I knew that sweet potatoes weren't exactly my favorite vegetable but, being an exceptionally agreeable child, I accepted the helping and licked my plate clean (literally--and I still do it today although less often in public).

Man, did I have one bad case of the flu after that meal. Barf city for days. Since then I have met more than several people who puked a fruit or vegetable or dish and haven't had the same relationship with it since.

I never saw sweet potatoes the same. "No thank you," I stated as cooked, orange vegetables were thrust upon me at every winter holiday event for the next 15 years,"I don't care for sweet potatoes."

Then I had an epiphany a few years ago. Sweet potatoes are like religion: you get sick of it for a long time after a bad experience and then after having it around you and shoved in your face during the holidays for decades, you finally decide to swallow it and VOILA!--an epiphany.

Sweet potatoes are still not my favorite, but I'm over the repulsion. So I put them in soup, order them with steaks, and think about all the lovely fiber, beta-carotene, blah, blah, blah.

All this to say, I made soup. Divine soup. Divine soup that lasts for a week--full of protein and nutrients and goodness.

Here lies another practical lesson: there is a difference between paprika and smoked paprika.

Paprika is a bland yet colorful spice you shake onto deviled eggs.

Smoked paprika is an otherworldly spice that smells like bacon and the laughs of angelic children. 

Lesson number two saves you countless hours searching your local Walmart who, by the way, never has any good produce nor anything ethnic or useful to people with allergies or organic health nuts. Look for it at your local Trader Joes, Whole Foods, or Kroger. 

Garbanzo beans? Yeah, they're the same thing as chick peas. 

By the way, if you're ever on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Cicero means "chickpea." True story.


  • 2 bone-in chicken breast halves (about 2 lb total)
  • 1 pound(s) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-in. pieces
  • 2 stalk(s) celery, sliced ¼ in. thick
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup(s) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) smoked paprika
  • 2 32- ounce(s) (8 cups ) containers low-sodium chicken broth
  •  Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 15- ounce(s) can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup(s) couscous


  1. Place the chicken, potatoes, celery, onion, tomato paste, cumin and paprika in a large pot. Add the broth, cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add ¾ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. (Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top.)
  3. Transfer the chicken to a bowl. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones.
  4. Stir the chicken back into the soup along with the chickpeas and couscous. Simmer for 3 minutes.
Tips & Techniques
Make it ahead: You can refrigerate the soup for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a large saucepan, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes.

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