"The years that I been through, I met a gentle few
who say that they love and they mean it.
The others that I met, they're decent folks I guess,
but all that they love is achievement.
Their swagger and their dress, the trappings of success,
the butter and the milk of what it takes to get ahead.
Any given night, you'll catch them dead to rights
painting their name on the ceiling.
Remember in the end that many of your friends
would rather be dead than uncertain.
They want a simple yes, or even better yet,
a promise the next life is perfect.
I promise that it's not, but then what have they got?
Only fifty years, they never gave a moment's thought.
Anyone they find who tells them otherwise,
they'll follow him backwards and shirtless."
Last night, for Valentine's Day, we went to dinner with friends and to see one of our favorite musicians: Joe Pug. His soulful lyrics really make me think, and of all the songs he sang last night, for some reason the lyrics above really stuck with me. The song is called "A Gentle Few," and you can listen to the whole thing here.
It rang so true to me last night as we were swaying in the dark theater, cold beers in hand, face tingling from laughing over a meal shared with these people I have met and come to love here in Charlotte. We are all trying to find our place in this world. Trying to "get ahead," seeking "achievement" and "the perfect life." I am drawn to people who have goals and work hard to make them happen, but this song reminded me about something. Loving those around us along the way, helping them to feel heard, that their goals and dreams matter but do not make or break them as a person. That's something I want to make sure I spend time doing in this life: working towards counting myself as one of "a gentle few."
So... what does all of this have to do with sweet potato & lentil stew? Great question. I originally found a recipe similar to this one in a book: The Kind Diet. It was one of those books that opened my eyes to many things, and challenged me to change my eating habits for ethical and health reasons. Otherwise known as "that 4-month period where I tried to be a vegan." It didn't last long, but I learned a lot and gained respect for others that continue to live their life that way. In other words, it was a goal of mine that I didn't reach. Something at which I failed. But I didn't beat myself up; I was simply thankful for the opportunity to understand a choice that many people make. Sometimes that's what it's all about.
Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew
loosely adapted from The Kind Diet
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup lentils
Prepare the lentils according to package directions, removing from the heat and draining about 5-10 minutes before they are done. They will continue to cook when they are added to the soup, and you don't want them to be mushy.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stir and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spices and stir to combine. Next, add the can of diced tomatoes (with their juices) and the vegetable broth. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lentils and cover, cooking for 10-15 minutes more. Continue to stir the soup and taste the sweet potatoes to see if they are cooked through. Serve with toast, if you'd like.