The Essentials

Easter greetings from my bubble to yours!

Life is pretty simple right now. “Stay home, break the chain, save lives” has been the message of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and overall the level of compliance to the lockdown in NZ has been remarkable. Simple is good; we can all understand simple.

Two weeks into a lockdown, we’ve all been distilling our lives into only the essentials and it has been an interesting journey. If we are not in the health services; connected with the food supply chain; a scientist or a vet; then most likely we are currently deemed non-essential workers and we’ve been told we must stay at home. I, along with 130,000 other hospitality workers, am part of that non-essential set. How does that make us feel?! Anyone whose self-worth is enmeshed with their job might feel a little rattled.

This is certainly one way of looking at ‘essential’ and it’s foolhardy to argue against the NZ government right now considering how they are currently not just flattening the curve but squashing it. 

Food of course is essential, and thank you growers, pickers and everyone in the food supply chains including the essential key workers at our supermarkets. I can’t help but wish though that there was greater awareness around the health promoting qualities of certain foods vs others. I would be in tears without access to fresh vegetables, whole grains & pulses, spices and good quality fats and oils… Rice-krispies, jar sauces and animal products – not so much! It’s interesting that junk food, animal products and ultra processed foods, which all have proven links to higher incidences of cancer & heart disease, have equal essential status right now. Even in this last horrifying week, US deaths from heart disease (1774) and cancer (1641) were more numerous than deaths from the virus (1515) according to this source. We are rightly at war against the virus, whilst meat, dairy, sugar, and ultra-processed foods are deemed as essential as avocado, brown rice and broccoli. It’s up to us as informed consumers to make our own choices I guess, as it always has been.

Yet I confess…. On the one hand, cakes and sugary treats are non-essential in my opinion, and, this morning my neighbour dropped off some home-made millionaires shortbread which I scoffed with much delight and appreciation! I had to think about this paradox, but then quickly concluded – millionaires shortbread is not essential, but kindness, generosity and gratitude are.

Following this, I started thinking about how humour, empathy, acceptance, forgiveness and patience are also lock-down essentials. As much as we can, we must use what’s available to us (poetry, art, comedy, music, DIY, exercise, whatever) to nourish the essential states of mind that will keep us sane and grounded through the lockdown. “Stay strong and be kind” is another classic Jacinda quote that shows the depth of her compassion and wisdom. 

It reminds me of a life coaching exercise where you write down what you want: “A promotion!”, “A holiday!” and then distill this to what you really want – validation, recognition, peace.

A friend shared this wonderful story earlier on his facebook page. It starts with the predicament of a commercial flower grower who has two hectares of blooms in his nursery. Cut flowers are non-essential during lockdown, so heartbreakingly, each day up to 7000 stems per day were being cut and composted. The twist in the story comes when the company decides to create bouquets ($15,000 worth!) and find a non-contactless way to offer them for free to hospital staff. It’s not that bouquets per se are essential – it was the resourcefulness, kindness and generosity that brought those key health workers, at the end of their long shifts, the gift of beauty and life.

I sign off with a simple recipe for a nourishing soup with spice and depth, made with pantry essentials. It might even appear on the winter Aro-Hā menu if and when we ever re-open, as a reminder of how we all came closer this month in deciding what really is essential in our lives.

Vegan Black Bean & Tomato Soup

  • 1 x 400g tin of blackbeans
  • 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes, whole or chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder, or 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2.5 cups of vege stock or water
  • optional: lime juice, coriander leaves and toasted mixed seeds to garnish

Warm a little olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook on low, covered, until soft. Add the garlic, all the herbs and spices and cook 2 mins. Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer 10 mins. Add the rinsed and drained black beans and the water / stock, and cook 10 more mins. Remove around half to three-quarters of the soup to a blender, and puree til smooth. Return to the pan and reheat as needed. Stir in the lime juice if using (recommended!)

Garnish with a generous sprinkle of toasted seeds for texture, and a little chopped coriander. Serve hot.

71486a32-e92a-4bba-b130-afa032bd1734Ciao for now!

Stay home and survive in style champions!

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