Writing in a Cafe

I have a seat by the cafe window.  The sun is shining out there, and puffy clouds scoot along.  Cars zoom or sometimes roar by, and pedestrians pass at the slightly slower stroll warranted by a relatively warm afternoon in Seattle: an elderly lady in bulky coat and hat, weighed down with shopping bags, a teenaged boy in a grey hoodie, a sign-holder with a backpack.

The barista is chatting with a customer, explaining what dry foam is on a cappuccino.  “A well-made dry cappuccino is a beautiful thing.  It’s a whole different thing, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

A couple down the row appears to be on a first date.  She is carefully dressed in a striped dress—casual, but cute.  She toys with her latte and leans forward with a smile on her face.  Across from her, the guy also leans forward, talking earnestly.  He is more casually dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, and takes the occasional swig from a Mexican pop.  As time goes on, their laughter gets louder; they lean closer together over their small table.

The guy next to me is alone, typing intently on his laptop.  He has a full-sleeve tattoo on his left arm, nothing on his right.

The music playing overhead is 80’s punk—Black Flag, I think.  Then the hiss and tap of an espresso shot being pulled temporarily overrides the music.  It smells deep brown and earthy.

Overheard: “Twenty years I’ve been here, and I’ve never uploaded porn.”

A girl, who has not one but two nose rings, is reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. 

First date couple is gathering up their dishes now, putting on jackets.  They leave together, so I guess the date went well.

*****

My goal, the reason I’m sitting here in my writing café on a sunny afternoon, is tell you about my Kabocha Squash and Yellow Lentil Soup.  Spring is coming on slowly here, but inexorably.  I’m taking home bags of Miner’s Lettuce and sheaves of tulips from the farmer’s market now instead of root vegetables and winter squash.  But I still have a few lingering winter items in the pantry.  It is time to use them up while I can still bear to.

I’ve had a lonely kabocha squash sitting in the bowl on my counter for months now.  All of his wintery brethren long gone, he was a forlorn orphan.  And I still had plenty of legumes in the cupboard.  Spring nights are cool, and a steamy hot bowl of thick soup is still welcome.

Bright with squash and tomatoes, savory with spices, this soup is hearty and filling, and is even better as leftovers.

The nice thing about yellow lentils is that they seem creamier and milder tasting than their darker counterparts.  And they have such a sunny color!  But  you can use any lentils you have on hand in this soup.  The yellow ones can take a bit longer to soften than some other varieties, so adjust your cooking time as needed.

Kabocha Squash and Yellow Lentil Soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook leeks in the olive oil until soft.  Add garlic and thyme and sauté briefly.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until lentils are tender, 40-50 minutes.  Add extra salt and pepper as needed.

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