A Loss (and Leftover Turkey Soup with Lemon, Barley & Kale)

Hello friends. It's been a while. I've been sad, and so, so busy. Six weeks ago, I lost my father. My "suck it up and deal" mentor. A man who'd lived with multiple sclerosis for over 40 years, he showed me better than anyone else ever could how to acknowledge your plight, but not be defined by it. How to keep getting something out of life, although life might be limited. To be scrappy and clever and smart so as to outwit the limiters and keep joy in the face of decline and disappointment. His entire adult life, like my life now, was colored by illness, and yet . . . he always chose to rally, to find a reason to keep going. He truly has been an inspiration for me as I live with cancer. Sure, lots of things have been messed up, but I still squeeze joy out of every day here . . . and a lot of that scrap and wit and vigor comes from my quiet, iron-willed, and brilliant father.

I also got my extraordinary love of food in large part from my dad. A few years ago he was forced to stop eating food by mouth, and this was one of the single hardest physical changes he had to deal with. When he was more able-bodied, we'd go to hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants and order super-spicy and/or piquant foods, making sure to tell the servers "not to dumb things down" for us. He'd frequently consume anchovy and fresh garlic pizzas and South Indian food that'd light your hair on fire. He was also a role model for healthful eating: he drank hot water with lemon before it was trendy, sprinkled wheat bran on his yogurt and loved local honey and fresh garden veg. Later, I always knew his eyes would light up when I showed up at the Home with a bag full of smelly cheese, ripe briny olives, unusual fare from an ethnic market. Or that he would look forward all day to being brought to our home by chair car to indulge in over-the-top garlicky slow-roasted pork loin, fresh bread, more cheese, and homemade desserts. And a beer or two. When we weren't eating, we were talking about food. He read this blog religiously. He critiqued it, he sent me tidbits that he thought might be interesting for me to write about, he told me which recipes he'd like to have me make for him.

I miss my dad. It's been hard to blog in these six weeks. There's been lots to do for him - death generates a lot of paperwork - and there has been the need for just being quiet. For enjoying "just" the everyday tasks of caring for my family and of homemaking. Of reconnecting with my friends and smelling the fresh air and of moving my body. And to be frank, I've thought a lot about giving up blogging and writing and speaking for the time being. Of not doing anything extra. Of just stepping back and being a housewife and mother for a while.

What does this have to do with turkey soup? Well, this turkey soup got me to post tonight. It was simple and tasty and warm and comforting, and it made me realize how conflicted I am about work, and whether I should be keeping at it, after all. I hope you enjoy it, and we'll see where time takes me. Until then, eat well, move more and try to squeeze a little joy out of every day.



Leftover Turkey Soup with Lemon, Barley & Kale (adapted from Simply Recipes)

3 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 t. ground turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground ginger
Juice of 1 large lemon
Zest of one large lemon
8 c. low-sodium chicken broth (or turkey stock, if you've been industrious and made some!)
1 c. pearled barley
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed and coarsely chopped (I used lacinato, but you can use whatever you've got on hand)
2 c. chopped leftover turkey (I used all white meat, but you can use whatever suits you)
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro


Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then add the turmeric, cumin and ginger.

Add the lemon zest and juice and the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the barley, cover, and continue to simmer until the barley is cooked about 20 minutes. Stir in the kale, cover and simmer until it's tender, about 10 more minutes.

Add the turkey, parsley and cilantro and cook until the turkey is warmed through, another 3-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your taste.

Serves 6.