Sunday, February 19, 2012

Most of you who read my posts know I tell some kind of story, usually from my past, and tie recipes to the story. Today though I want to write about something from the "here and now" - the death of Whitney Houston.
We all know the story, talented young artist rises to superstar status. She has it all - success, fame, fortune.   With that comes immense pressure to always be on top.   Somewhere along the way she becomes ensnared in drugs or alcohol, or both.  We hear blame being placed on the man she's involved with, on her, on the industry, on us for placing pressure on her to be perfect all the time.  She suffers miscarriages and heartbreak, there are stories of domestic turmoil and violence, that drugs are being done by both of them in front of their child.   They break up and we are sure now she will rise above it all to be the person we thought she was meant to be. She goes through treatment several times, but it does not appear to "stick."  There are attempts to revive her career, but they fail.   If you ever watched "A Star is Born" (pick your favourite version), you know how it ends.  And sadly on February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston's life and story ended in a bathroom at the Beverly Hilton. 
Now I will be the first person to tell you I thought she was a hot mess and it made me angry whenever I heard stories about her being drunk or high or both.  I was disgusted by those televised scenes of her and Bobby Brown during various episodes in their life together, and I remember well the "crack is whack" comment she made during that interview with Diane Sawyer.  I was completely cynical watching her interview with Oprah.  I was not surprised by her death, in fact I was expecting it soon or later, but I was surprised by how bereft I felt when I did hear the news.
Every generation has had that someone...the singer, the crooner, the voice of their generation.  Be it Perry Como, Billie Holliday, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Etta James, the Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion.  To me, she was "the voice."  She played Saskatoon in 1991 on her "Be Your Baby Tonight" tour....and I remember how powerful her voice was.  And I loved her music... "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" made me laugh out loud because I found it such a fun, joyful song.  I remember hearing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and literally getting goosebumps because I thought it was so good.  There were some songs I could hear sheer joy in her voice and I responded to that.  I remember playing "Where do Broken Hearts Go" over and over when my own heart was broken.   When "I Will Always Love You" was released as a single from The Bodyguard soundtrack, it may have been Dolly Parton's song....but she made it her own with that bravura performance, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Still does.  
Some people have made some ugly nasty comments about her life and her death (I think they commented about Michael Jackson too).  And they may have a point.  But I think they should have chewed on their words for a while before spitting them out.  She left family and friends behind that love her, and these comments hurt them and they don't deserve that. I simply remind you that all of us are beloved to someone, maybe it's a parent, a child, a spouse or spousal equivalent, a friend, business associate, peer...get my point?   I hope for your sake that when it is your time to depart this mortal plain, there isn't some braying jackass saying your death doesn't matter.  
I am going to let go of my judgments about her and just remember her for her immense talent and for those times she let that joy she felt singing shine through in her videos; feel sorry for her because she couldn't overcome her demons in spite of her immense talent; and believe the world is a little sadder without her in it.  

When I am down, l like comfort food.  This soup has only 6 ingredients, but it's rich and tasty.  And it doesn't take any more than 45 minutes from start to finish.  

Sweet Potato, Coconut and Quinoa Soup (adapted from Gojee)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1 onion, diced
2 cups each of vegetable broth and water
1/2 cup quinoa
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 cup coconut milk

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them until carmelized (browned). Add the sweet potatoes, quinoa and the vegetable broth, plus 1/2 of the spice.  Turn up heat to high, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium/medium low.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft and quinoa is cooked.  Then either using an immersion blender  or a regular blender (do it in small batches if you use a regular blender to prevent it popping the lid off and burning you) puree the soup (yes you are pureeing the grains of quinoa too).  Return the pureed soup to the pot, add the coconut milk and the rest of the spice, and warm on low for about 10 minutes.  By the way, in the beginning the soup doesn't seem all that impressive and you will wonder if it's any good.  But when it's done, it has fabulous flavour.  One serving is about 450 calories.  It is high in Vitamin C, fiber, iron, protein.  It makes a very thick potage....and can be thinned down with a little more water if you like.

The original recipe called for 1 tbsp of chili powder, added at the same time as you add the coconut milk.  I added one half of my garam masala while cooking the sweet potatoes and quinoa because I wanted that flavour infused throughout.  I love Indian flavours, and I added the last part of the spice in at the another makes the flavour more vivid. 

I like this soup with a salad and 1/2 of a toasted english muffin for a nice evening meal.  It's perfect for one of those gray days where it doesn't quite feel like winter, but it's definitely not spring-like outside.  Or a day where you are feeling sad and want something comforting like this.

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