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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Do Unto Others…


My mom has an ornery rooster whom I named Bogart when he was still a sweet, dapper young chick. Although I outweigh him by well…a lot, and I have opposable thumbs to grasp a stick to shoo him with, he still scares me. When I walk by the chicken coop, he hurls himself against the fence, warning me to keep away from his flock. If I go into the coop to feed the chickens some scraps, I ready my stance, prepared to fight back if necessary. And when he’s free ranging, I give him a wide berth so he will have no reason to chase me down.

My dad and Bogart jostle for position as “top dog.” It’s man’s machismo versus rooster’s, and sometimes it’s a close contest. My mom, on the other hand, doesn’t understand what the fuss is about. She adores Bogart and has never once had an “encounter” with him. She suggested I give up my defensive stance and approach him with love. At first I thought she was nuts. Although I wasn’t ready to show him affection, I did decide to stop being afraid. The most remarkable thing happened, the next time I went into the coop, Bogart didn’t strut, paw at the ground, or try to tackle me. Ever since I changed my approach, he seems to have changed his attitude toward me. Who knew that it would be a chicken that would most clearly illustrate to me, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Although the Golden Rule is not a new idea, I’m still awed by it. And it’s not just chickens that show that whatever we project is reflected back. Last week while dining at an exquisite restaurant in Washington DC, there was an unexpected interlude between courses that was just as wonderful as the food. The experience reminded me that the more trusting I am, the more others will trust me and vice versa.

My friend, Katie, and I were having dinner at Restaurant Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in America. We decided to go all out and get the 4-course tasting menu. It was a big splurge, but it was my birthday. The manager assured us that if we placed our order quickly, we’d be able to finish in time to make it to the Kennedy Center where we had tickets for the symphony. We put ourselves in his hands and embarked on our feast.

Before we’d even blinked, a warm bowl of sweet and earthy broccoli and apple soup was placed in front of us along with a bottle of wine. Then came a delicate and flavorful crab and avocado salad. Halfway through our entrées (wild mushroom risotto for Katie and grassfed filet mignon and ratatouille for me), Katie noticed that we’d been steamrolling through the meal. Wanting to savor every moment, I tried to prolong the experience by slowing down.

Suddenly, however, it was 20 minutes to eight and we hadn’t yet had dessert. I downed the last bite of my steak, and the waiter whisked my plate away. Within seconds, the manager, Jack, appeared at our side. He told us we should leave. I asked if we could settle our bill first, but he said we needed to hurry. He told us to enjoy the show and come back afterward for dessert and drinks. We could pay then. Katie and I had entrusted him with the task of presenting an elegant four-course meal in less than two hours and as a result of our trust in him, he trusted us to momentarily walk away from a sizeable bill.

True to our word, we hurried back to Nora as soon as the performance ended. We had a delicious dessert, and were even treated to sauternes on the house. We paid our bill and left feeling as though we’d had a magical evening.

How do you want others to perceive you? What traits do you want to project to the world? If you want to feel more love, be more loving. If you want more respect, be more respectful. And if you want people to trust you more, be more trusting. When I saw my actions reflected back to me by the rooster and when I experienced Jack’s trust in us, I had a sudden awareness of what it truly means to follow the Golden Rule.


Broccoli and Apple Soup

Before dining at Restaurant Nora I’d put apples in curried soups, but I’d never thought to pair them with broccoli. What a treat! The apple adds an intoxicating hint of sweetness. I was inspired to create the following recipe to share a bit of Nora with you. This might sound crazy, but I think I like this version even more.

Broccoli soup is generally made with cream; however, when creating this recipe I wanted to try to make it without dairy. In place of cream I’ve added blanched raw almonds, which act to round out the flavors in the way that cream would.

Serves 6 as an appetizer
Serves 4 as an entrée

2 tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced (1 ½ cups)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped (1 cup)
4 stalks of celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 tbs. chopped fresh tarragon (plus more for garnish)
1 bunch of broccoli (3 crowns with stems/1 ½ pounds), cut into chunks
1 lg. Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped (2 cups)
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups water
½ cup slivered blanched raw almonds
salt
1 tsp. pink peppercorns
crème fraîche for garnish (optional)

Gently warm the olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and a pinch of salt* and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring frequently. While the onions and garlic cook, wash and chop the carrots, celery, and tarragon. Add them to the soup pot along with another pinch of salt, and stir. Meanwhile, break the broccoli florets into bite-size chunks and peel and chop the broccoli stem and the apple. Add the broccoli and apple to the pot along with the wine, water, blanched almonds, and another pinch of salt. Cover and allow to simmer until the vegetables are soft, about an hour. Remove from the heat and purée in small batches in a high-powered blender. Aim for silky smooth. Add more salt as needed. Although the soup can be eaten immediately, the flavor improves after the ingredients have had a chance to marry. Either let the soup sit for 30 minutes before eating or make ahead and enjoy the following day. Garnish with a sprig of fresh tarragon and a sprinkle of pink peppercorns. A dollop of crème fraîche can also be added for extra richness and a delicious tang.

*Add a small pinch of salt as each batch of ingredients is added. This helps to layer the flavors. Add more as needed once the soup has been puréed.