Friday evening, Charles and his fellow flamenco students had a small part in a show of one of the groups he takes classes from. We all know now what happened in Paris on Friday, but I found out from a woman with a smart phone who barged into a conversation I was having with a young student’s mom in the lobby after the show. I didn’t go online when we got home to find out more, or even tell Charles (who would have), because I really needed that not to be the story of the evening yet, but of course it was the first thing I read about in the paper when I got up Saturday morning. My reaction was probably not much different from anyone else’s to horror that can’t be put into words, but that it seems no one can keep from trying to anyway.
Saturday morning Charles went off to a flamenco class (he’s a little obsessed…) and I sat down to proofread the winter issue and finish my column. A little before 11, I went out to go see a movie on Impressionist painters at a little indie theater near our house. It was sold out – 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a documentary on the Impressionists, this isn’t the new Bond movie we’re talking about, so this surprised me. I started chatting with the woman in front of me in line, an elderly woman, a little hard of hearing, and I had to repeat things. “I hate when I think I have an original idea and realize half of Santa Fe had the same idea,” I said.
She said, “I think we're here because of what happened in Paris. We want to connect with them over something positive.”
Now, I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the reason I went, even unconsciously, but I loved what she said and I feel I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Friday was everything about survival: hundreds in Paris fighting for it, many losing, millions and millions around the world asking ourselves what we would do, if this could come to where we are, if we're safe if we don’t go to France, or Europe, or big stadiums or…. And Saturday morning, people were going to art movies, and calling their children, and who knows, maybe making French onion soup, something to affirm life and love.
Sometimes it seems everything we read or hear anymore is about what we must do for survival, to protect our planet from all we’ve done to imperil it. Things like this remind me that it is not just the mighty task of survival that matters, but the things of this life that we intuitively love – the shade of a tree on a hot day, a butterfly, a hawk in the apricot tree, food, family, friends, the daily moments that make the difference, the difference between Friday night and Saturday morning.
Comfort food is in the taste buds of the beholder. Here in my adopted home of Santa Fe, New Mexico, comfort often comes in the pleasure/pain pairing of hot green chile. Use or omit from this creamy chowder as you wish; likewise the bacon, which figures more as a supporting character here than a central one.
6 pieces bacon
2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 diced red pepper
2 diced potatoes
1 quart water or broth
Thyme, oregano and/or basil
1 package frozen corn (or 6 ears fresh corn, shucked)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or milk
Fresh cilantro to garnish
Cook the bacon until crisp, then chop and set aside. Saute onion, celery and red pepper in vegetable oil in a heavy soup pot until the vegetables are tender. (I like to cook bacon in the oven, although you could cook it in the soup pot, remove and drain, leaving a little bacon grease in the pot for cooking the vegetables.) Add the potatoes, water or broth and herbs, and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the corn and cook another 10-15 minutes. Before serving, add the cream or milk and heat until just before boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the chopped bacon. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro before serving.