By Steph Farrar
Not too long ago, a few friends joined Sierra and I for a summer bowl of soup, cornbread, mango micheladas, mint margaritas and a key lemon tart with blueberries. Even on a hot summer day, a bowl of soup can work... as long as dear friends share a seat in the shade and join us sipping something cold.
This past week, Sam and I were miraculously able to see a few movies together, two in the theater, two at home. While I love going to the movies, the two documentaries we watched on Netflix at home were not only informative culturally and socially, but they were inspiring on a subject I've been focused on lately: a life's dedication to work and how that dedication and love of work leads to success. First we watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a 2011 David Gelb film, following the 75 year career of, arguably, the world's finest and hardest working sushi chef. And secondly we watched Senna, the 2010 Asif Kapadia film which documents, entirely from raw footage, the impeccable career of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna.
While the films have nothing to do with Chicken Tortilla Soup and having friends over for an afternoon party, I've been obsessing, clinically and radically, over food, its preparation, its science, its beauty, and its grip on me for the last few years. Even more so in the last few months. After watching and somewhat studying Jiro and Ayrton's allegiance and passion for their work, I'm beginning to finally understand how loyalty to ones craft is born: continue doing what you love and never stop, never concede. The legendary English marathoner, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, only months after having heart surgery, ran 7 marathons in 7 days on 6 different continents. I'm reminded of one of his best quotes,"That part of the human mind which tells us to give up... that part is suspect."
It seems like a little ole' housewife thing to do: enjoy cooking and feeding people. Seemingly the opposite of female evolution. I fear my doctor and lawyer friends, my career motivated artist and fashionable lady-friends might jeer at this. Alas, I can not avoid or deny the sheer pleasure it gives me.
So, I will. I will continue cooking, inviting friends for dinner, posting, writing, working, doing what I love... and never stop. That is, until my presence becomes a nuisance or in any way interferes with the product, the meal, the race. I'm trying to avoid coming across like a motivational speaker here, but it's hard to not be inspired by the relentless work ethic of Jiro, who has loved every single day of his life in work, making the same thing over and over again, for the ten special guests who grace his subterranean Roppongi Hills subway sushi stop.
It's hard to avoid being influenced and encouraged by Senna's unyielding desire to be number one, to put to shame that arrogant Frenchman, Alain Prost, to win more World Championship's than anyone in history, to exist as the idol Brazil needed and deserved.
A bowl of soup does it for me. Friends visiting for a drink, a football game, a chat, a sweet dessert to complete a perfect afternoon in the Los Angeles sun. If I've done that right, I'll do it over and over, forever, continuously, relentlessly. If that brings joy to my soul and to my friends' palettes and personas, I've won.
*Photos courtesy of Christopher Wray-Mccann
Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cornbread
3/4- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 cilantro stems
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup black beans 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes crushed tortilla chips
*diced avocado, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, sour cream and lime wedges for serving
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat
Add onion and cook for about 3 minutes
Stir in chili powder and tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds
Add broth and cilantro stems and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 10-12 minutes, until reduced to 3 cups
Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to broth. Cook for 3 minutes
Discard cilatro stems
Divide corn, beans, and tomatoes between bowls. Pour piping hot broth over ingredients.
Add avocado, lime, cilantro, cheese, and sour cream. Enjoy!
note: if you have oven-proof soup bowls, keep in warm oven before adding corn, beans, tomatoes and chips. Soup cools rather quickly once the hot broth touches the cool ingredients.
Grandmother's buttermilk cornbread from www.allrecipes.com
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan
Melt butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended.
Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in skillet.
Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until well blended but a few lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.