PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 19
This is the second instalment of our in-print column, At Home with Julia Kennedy
In Ayurvedic medicine, fire is the element that transforms. There are fires burning all around California. Malibu is ablaze—just days after, I drove through a horrific crime scene along the 101 freeway, at the Borderline Bar massacre in Thousand Oaks. I could see the red tape around the parking lot and all the scared victims and family members lining up at police checkpoints. Our car is covered in ash and you can smell the smudge of the forest coming up on the breeze. We are in a cleansing phase—mourn what is being lost, acknowledge and see the re-setting, re-balancing.
Fires everywhere, no school. Hot traffic, record breaking temperatures outside. 120 degrees in LA, everything is burning. Woman night riders; Sarah sent me a news clip of this wild car chase that was a manic and impressive weave through the arts district, Boyle Heights, downtown LA, all over the city. The driver was a woman—she used her car as a weapon to batter her way through police barricades. No one knows why, not even her. When they finally stopped her (without shooting her, because she was a white woman), the only thing she was heard saying was, “What’s wrong with you people!?” Truly perplexed and distraught, bundled up and strapped to a stretcher as they wheeled her into an ambulance. Danger.
The summer heat makes the earth crack and shake, at any moment we could all be swallowed up. The women are cracking up. The natural disasters are getting ready for their yearly cycle, almost with no in-between this year. Fires to floods—seems like yesterday I was watching the flames lick over the ridges of Glendale, only the day after horrific reports of people swept right out of their living rooms by flash floods in Santa Barbara. The California oak trees in my garden have all been scorched, the tomatoes and peppers and succulents all cooked, now brown mush.
There is a dis-ease here in Los Angeles. We have our supplies, so we bunk up for some eternal LA barricade fuck. Lavender afternoon fuck. I surrender myself to be prisoner of good dick, and to keep safe and hold my own prisoner, my love. At golden hour, night or day, I present platters of offerings; a small morsel of this and that, avocado, half a boiled egg, peony petals, coffee, cold water, ripe fruits, a scattering of pistachio kernels. Blessings in this servitude eternally, adore and adorn with flowers, anoint with precious oils of vetiver and tuberose. It’s safe in here together. We wish we had guns, too. He likes it when I tell him stories about the animals, I make up stories of the dusty pink velvet rabbit den in the garden down below, where all the small white-tailed bunnies hopping in the dusk run into the night to be together, warm and safe.
We are Doomsday cult of two. I wear my sex cult apocalypse rags exiled inward to this realm, slinking around in t-shirts that have been ruined (become sacred) by my self-oiling practice: rare oils, sandalwood, frankincense, shea, applied liberally post-bath. These rags, formerly cotton or linen t-shirts, arrive at this treasured state by my preference for feeling a natural fabric against my skin while dripping with oil. The oils absorb into the fibers of the shirts causing them to deteriorate, a sped-up kind of aging process which I find highly desirable. A coveted onion-skin feel, a veil of pretty much nothing. These are the cult smocks. We share them. I am wearing a black smock now, advanced in its disintegration, literally decomposing, returning back to the earth, as we will when it’s all over out there.
Oh darling, you’re my darling I love you so. I want to be with you. That’s a lyric from a Vincent Gallo song called “Honey Bunny.” I was obsessed with him when I was 21, I remember fantasizing about fucking him in a meadow under an apple tree with the pink apple blossoms falling over us. I wrote him an email describing this scenario and he wrote back: “Let’s start with a photo.” Fair enough, I guess. Simple concepts elate a young heart, and never leave sometimes, I want to be with you.
At some hour my prisoner Bhagavan awakens. We don’t really care what we eat or drink now, whether we sleep or not, wash or leave our hair disheveled and woven together. Reality of earthly necessity is meaningless now. In our gentle, cool, room we laid naked holding each other. We walked onto the balcony overlooking the valley—not a soul could be seen, the moon was black and the stars were blazing brightly as they are meant to, with no light to drown them out. I could smell woodsmoke. He held me in his arms, I thought the word “fleeting.” I sensed how an energy could just be glimpsed in this lifetime before it was gone. Beamed up and down and gone. I found this heartbreaking, terrifying and also beautiful and overwhelming. Like a stream of light dipping down to earth in a flash before it continues into infinity. I looked towards the ocean and I heard “let her speak” as I watched the mountains roll and tumble in rainbow and light-connected matter, conceived of infinite minute universes themselves. I felt the onerousness of having a physical body. I thought if we could press our bodies together hard enough we might become this light, a new fabric that might fold with the universe. Some of me and some of him. One and two together, when the world is left to ashes.
Italian vegetable soup, 1871, from Italian minestrone, with augmentative suffix -one + minestra “soup, pottage,” literally “that which is served,” from minestrare “to serve, to prepare (soup, etc.),” from Latin ministrare (see minister (v.)). (dictionary.com)
1 a person authorized to conduct religious worship; member of the clergy; pastor.
2 a person authorized to administer sacraments, as at Mass.
The Minister is me, it is you, the one serving the sacrament to fortify the spirit and the body. A broth that is deep medicine, containing easily storable beans among other things, a must-have disaster/apocalypse staple. The broth is the most important part of this recipe, and a rich one is necessary for full medicinal quality to be gleaned. You can make it as advanced or as simple as possible, but my thrice-reduced method is what I recommend.
Broths can be made with the scraps of things as well as, of course, whole things you may have lying around. The basis of any broth (from a French cuisine standpoint) is mirepoix—always carrots, celery, onion (also good cellar items, easily storable)—and to that you can add other aromatics like fennel, garlic, and any number of herbs. A bay leaf is essential to all my broths as well. To really gain the richness you will want to add some kind of bones, or for a vegetarian version, mushrooms. This recipe calls for both. So in that, it is not really a traditional minestrone at all, but I chose to call it this more for the ritualistic aspects of administering that which is sacred and protective in mental and physical times of strife.
Stage 1 (First Reduction)
*Before you begin, soak one cup of dried flageolet beans (yields about 2 cups when soaked and cooked) in a big bowl with lots of water, you will use these in stage 2 and 3 in the final soup.*
In a large pot add:
4 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped, 1 large onion, quartered, 3 carrots, coarsely chopped, 1 bulb of fennel, coarsely chopped, 1 head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped, 1 bunch parsley stalks (save the leaves for later),1 pound shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped, 1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt
Cover with water until the pot is almost full, bring to a boil and turn the heat way down to simmer. Let it go like this for about 3-4 hours, until the liquid is reduced to about two thirds of what it was. When it is finished, strain everything out of the broth and set aside.
Stage 2 (Second Reduction)
In a large pot add:
2 stocks of celery, coarsely chopped,1 large onion, 2 carrots coarsely chopped, 1 head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped, 1 bay leaf,1 star anise, 1 whole chicken, including neck and organs
Cover everything with Stage 1 broth, bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours.
*While it is simmering take those dried flageolet beans you have been soaking for a few hours, or overnight ideally, and cook them through in lots of water with a bay leaf until they are tender, about 45 minutes-1 hour. Drain and set aside.*
After two hours, remove the chicken and remove all the meat from the carcass and set aside. Strain the broth. Using a large knife, strike the chicken bones so that they break and you can see the marrow inside. Put all the bones and carcass back in the pot, cover with the broth you have just strained, bring to a boil then simmer for a further two hours.
Strain the broth again, and set aside.
Stage 3 (The Soup)
1 onion, diced, 2 celery ribs, diced, 2 cups cooked flageolet beans, Ehe meat of one whole chicken, shredded, 1 bay leaf,1 star anise
Stage 2 broth, approximately 8 cups, or however much you have to cover everything and fill a 4 quart pot.
Salt and pepper to taste
For the garnish:
1 bunch parsley leaves, minced, 1 clove garlic, minced, Zest one lemon
In a medium sized pot, sauté the onion and celery until translucent, then add the beans and chicken meat. Sauté a further few minutes until everything is glistening and coated, then pour in the rich broth you’ve produced through Stages 1 and 2. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaf and star anise and simmer everything for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chop and mince the parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Ladle into bowls, garnish with a sprinkling of the parsley/garlic/lemon zest mixture and a drizzle of olive oil, and offer it to one you love.
Julia Kennedy is a Los Angeles based writer and artist.
Read more from her HERE.
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