Sunday, December 16, 2012

Curried Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Soup with Farro: Real life

"See Your 2012 Year in Review. Look back at your 20 biggest moments from the past year."

I noticed the notification on my Facebook page this past Thursday -- it stared me straight in the eye, taunting me as I tried to process the assumption behind the phrases.

It struck me as odd that a social media platform could discern the biggest moments of my year based on my status updates, the photos I'd shared, and the number of "likes" I'd accrued with each one. It felt robotic. Impersonal. Like when iTunes tries to tell me what music I'd like because I recently downloaded songs from Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars.

No, iTunes, just because I've listened to "I Knew You Were Trouble" 25 times in a row, it does not mean I want to purchase Justin Bieber's "Baby."

But I was curious. Could Facebook zero in on my most memorable moments of the year? Could it detect emotional resonance based on how many people liked an image of wheat berries with butternut squash?

I clicked through and was immediately confronted with a collage of photos: Sarah and I holding beers at the Gold Standard food event in March, Krista and I mugging for the camera during an impromptu visit to the bar at Picca, a table set with food during a dinner party with Daniela and Katie. I smiled at the images, inadvertently warmed by the memories behind each one, and continued to smile as I scrolled down the page. A picture of me on my 29th birthday. The announcement that I was going to Palm Springs in 14.5 hours. A check-in post at The Golden State that I was tagged in by a coworker. A status update about a swinging couple that propositioned me on OkCupid.

At first glance, it seemed fairly representative of my year. I did a lot eating and drinking, I spent two amazing weekends in Palm Springs, I found new friends in my new coworkers, and I did a lot of bitching about the crazy people I encountered on OkCupid. (The most recent wore a leather cuff bracelet outfitted with a Texas Ranger star on our first and only date.)

But as with most things that appear on Facebook, it was a somewhat superficial assessment of my 2012 -- the memories that I wanted people to see, the moments that I felt comfortable "oversharing," the status updates I'd generated solely because I knew people would "like" them.  

Because Facebook is inevitably more of a brag book or complaint department than it is a memoir of real moments both good and bad -- the ooey gooey stuff that we're often too afraid to admit outloud let alone outright.

Facebook was not the place where I talked about getting let go from my job -- even though that was perhaps the most defining moment of my year in terms of how I dealt with it, grew from it, and ultimately became better because of it. Facebook was not the place where I talked about getting my heart broken by the only guy I ever took to meet... Mozza.

And Facebook was not the place where I talked about all the mundane moments -- a casual dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's place in Orange County, going to see Magic Mike with my best friend on opening night, or closing down a soba noodle place with two of my other dearest friends in the city while we sipped a cheap bottle of Merlot.

I saved all that for Twitter.

All joking aside, Facebook does not have insight into the most meaningful or obscure yet poignent moments of my year just because 16 people thought it was funny that a guy on OkCupid told me "I have needs as a man and need to know if you can satisfy them."

That's the surface stuff. The hokey costume you wear on Halloween, the pristinely frosted layer cakes sitting in the window at the bakery, beckoning people passing by to pause, look and pay attention. Real life happens when nobody is watching. When we're too busy living the moment rather than thinking about which social media platform we want to use to broadcast it.

Real life isn't a layer cake. It's not a haphazard photograph taken at an event or party to prove to the people who ignored you in high school that you're cool and popular enough to be there. It's not a status update sharing your opinion on an article that you think makes you sound smart.

Real life is when you drink two bottles of sparkling Lambrusco with a friend going through a break up. Real life is when your brother asks you to be the godmother to your niece. And real life is soup, slurped at home on a rainy Sunday afternoon while the plumber fixes your broken pipes.

Curried Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Soup with Farro
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Serves 4

Notes: This recipe has quickly become my go-to soup recipe for lazy nights or gray weekend days when I can't fathom leaving the apartment -- or changing out of my sweatpants. It's hearty and comforting, yet not in a completely familial or tired way like some broth-based vegetable soups. The secret is in the sweet potato-thai curry combination -- the savory sweet ace in the hole, so to speak. I made only a few changes to the original recipe (mostly to the ingredient proportions), but also using coconut oil instead of olive oil, omitting the red peppers, and reducing the overall cooking time. I'm sure letting it simmer longer would create an even greater depth of flavor, but even as written below it packs enough of a wallop that I am sitting here considering making it again for dinner.

1 tablespoon coconut oil (olive oil is also perfectly acceptable)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 small or 1 extra-large sweet potato, peeled and diced (approximately 2 cups)
Sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons red Thai curry paste
6-7 cups vegetable broth (I use water mixed with Better than Bouillon vegetable base - the best!)
1/2 cup farro, rinsed well
1 16-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups finely chopped kale
Sriracha for serving

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sweet potatoes, season with a pinch of salt, and saute over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until they start to soften and brown. Lower the heat, add the red curry paste and stir to coat the onions and potatoes

Add the farro and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the farro and sweet potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and add the chickpeas and kale. Simmer another 5-10 minutes until kale is completely wilted. Serve immediately. If desired, add a couple drops of sriracha to each bowl for a kick of heat.


the actor's diet said...

i'm kinda jealous my facebook didn't offer this up to me!

yutjangsah said...

How dare you call my new favorite Merlot "cheap". I agree. Real life is when I'm sitting on the toilet seat cover trying to trim my Gobi desert cuticles into submission. Unsexy, banal, somewhat administrative and oftentimes tinged with sadness. But that's where the cheap Merlot comes in! Happy 2013!~

catty said...

mmmmmmmmm Magic Mike.... ;)

Ashley said...

That will forever remain the best movie theater-going experience of my life.

Gastronomer said...

Speaking of real life, I miss seeing you there! More face time in 2013, D! Hope you had the merriest Christmas...