Accidental Lentil Soup

Where I work is a very western, financial area. Shiny new buildings, tons of cafes and western restaurants, boatloads of ex-pats. So sometimes you can kind of forget that you’re in China. Not all the way, of course, but on a beautiful sunny spring day with no pollution, it can sort of slip to the back of your mind. Until, of course, you’re sitting in a cab at a red light and a man come sup to the window selling things, and in one hand is a live, wriggling box turtle for sale, and in the other, a fistful of car-phone charging cables. Then, well, then you are rather abruptly reminded that you are, in fact, in China.

So I have moved into my apartment slowly but surely. I have a list of things that I need to buy RIGHT NOW in order to make it habitable, and a list about 4 times as long of things that I should probably buy in the next month to make living comfortable (but that I can survive without), and a list of things that I dearly want but don’t really need. And since I’ll be living on about $250 dollars for the next three weeks, it should be fun to see what happens.

I subsisted on take out, Gung Ho pizza, and Nature Valley bars for the first two weeks of moving in, plus a few dinners that I had made and frozen before moving. But after two trips to IKEA, some whiskey fueled furniture assembly, and a whole lot of cleaning products, I finally have a space where I can cook, even if my pantry is nowhere near stocked.

Taking a look at my “pantry” i.e., the pile of food and consumption related goods in the corner waiting to be put away, I found a forgotten bag of lentils, and chicken in the freezer. I found chicken in the freezer which I let thaw and marinade in a mix of soy sauce, sugar, minced ginger, and cooking wine, before baking at 375F for 45 minutes. Quite tasty.

I chopped up a small onion and garlic, and let that soften in olive oil. I also chopped up a hunk of the homemade bacon still kicking around in my freezer. After the onion became translucent, I added the bacon, let it cook, added the lentils, and then poured in enough chicken stock and water to cover the lentils by a few inches. I added freshly ground black pepper, but no salt since the bacon was salty enough. Basic cooked lentils should take about 25 minutes on a simmer to fully cook while still holding their shape, at which point you drain, remove the onion slices and serve or mix into a salad or whatever, but either I wasn’t paying attention and let them cook for too long, or the lentils were really old…when I checked them, they had completely disintegrated. I accidentally made soup! And with the onion and bacon in there, it was a pretty tasty side dish with the chicken.

Simple soup starter ingredients

I planned to go to Sanyuanli and Dongjiao last weekend, since that effectively depleted all the edible things I owned. But then I came down with stomach flu. I woke up with a raging fever and in my delirium, had to struggle and tie my extra bed sheet to the window as a makeshift curtain because the sun was being a total bitch. And then for the next 8 days I was completely useless. I tried to make myself chicken soup from scratch, and while it was delicious, nothing would stay down and so I survived on gatorade for the first three days and gatorade and jello for the next four days after that. I do not like not eating, I do not like sitting in bed without the energy to move while it’s a beautiful weekend, and I do not like being sick while having to work because there are important projects that can’t wait for you to get better. Also, having stomach flu and having to be the point person for not one but TWO cocktail receptions is just…vicious.
The only good thing about the last ten days was that on Sunday I went to see The Avengers with Bambi

All I can say is…AMERICA. And I really want there to be a Tony Stark. Or rather, I really want Robert Downey Jr. to be as snarky and irreverent and awesome in real life, even if he has to hire a team of writers to constantly feed him witty repartee. And that 95% of the theater audience could not possibly comprehend why it was so humorous.


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