Seasonal Pantry: Comforting white bean soup is perfect to share
On the second morning of my evacuation, I stepped out of the little tent where I had slept fitfully, listening to the freight train wind and comforting my two little terrified dachshunds, and saw a great blue heron, sitting quietly on the edge of a pretty little lake, where a day or two earlier a mama river otter bobbed and floated as she munched on crawfish.
A few hours later, a white egret had taken the heron’s place, but I spotted the blue bird up a hill, standing as still as a rock, amidst nearly a dozen geese. How regal this bird looked, and how lucky I felt in that moment.
This is not to make light of the last few days and the losses so many people have suffered. It is simply that in the midst of the inconvenience of being evacuated and having neither power nor any idea of how bad this might get, a precious moment of Sonoma County’s beauty appeared and made me feel both lucky and grateful to be where I am.
Spin the video back a couple of days: I was sitting at my desk, writing today’s column, which was to be about Italian black rice, which has recently become available. Black risotto with poached tongue and golden saffron sauce seemed just the thing for a Halloween feast. It will have to wait.
Halloween, my favorite day of the year since I was a little girl, seems superfluous this week. If you are untouched by the fires, outages, and evacuations and if you feel like celebrating with something good to eat, visit my blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where I will have posted links to some of my favorite spooky specialties, god willin’ and the crick don’t rise, as they say.
In the meantime, friends with whom I have stayed made a simple soup, using mostly produce from their garden, which is adjacent to a nice little kitchen that is separate from the main house. It is powered by propane and a generator.
Not long before the soup was ready, my friend decided to make cornbread. She whipped it together in almost no time and put the cast iron skillet that held the batter into her oven. Thirty minutes later, we savored that delicious soup, chowed down on the cornbread slathered with really good butter, and shared a bottle of DeLoach Vineyards pinot noir, all while we watched the bright red sun sink down behind the bank of smoke that flowed to the sea like a brown sky river.
“Is this really happening,” I thought now and then, or are we in some apocalyptic Australian film? This has reminded me, more than anything, of the strange storm that was taking place when the late Ernest “Kentucky” Pendergrass committed his infamous murders outside of Sebastopol three decades ago. If you were here, you remember that haunting, ominous night of power outages, crushing rain, and trees falling across Highway 116.
When I arrived sometime before dawn on the first day of evacuations, they plopped me down into a cushy chair, covered me with a nice blanket, and brought what they called disaster cookies, baked when the troubles first began. We watched the sun come up, huddled against the wind, and every now and then, someone handed me a cookie.