Last week, I had a travel-related breakdown, then epiphany.
See, I used to really go places: I planned actual trips that took me out of city, state, and, when I got particularly lucky, country. In fact, after quitting my first publishing job six years ago, I decided to freelance instead of looking for another full-time position, primarily because a more irregular schedule would make it easier to get out of town whenever I pleased. For awhile it did just that, but as my day-to-day life evolved, I found that, though I was working more than ever, I didn’t seem to have the funds I once did for traveling.
I was wallowing in self-pity when a fairly basic thought occurred to me: If I want this to be a priority, I have to make it one. I’ve been hemorrhaging disposable income on eating and drinking, then feeling heartsick when there wasn’t enough left over for anything else. It was obvious that my spending habits needed to change.
My new mantra? Buy tickets first, menu-plan later.
I’ve already started to put this philosophy into practice; San Francisco (a direct flight for $220 round-trip!) and Portland, Oregon, are on the agenda for November and December, and the Carnivore and I will be heading to Trinidad in February, right around Carnival time. I even joined Twitter in hopes of finding a good deal or two, thanks to a Wendy Perrin article on who to follow, from October’s Condé Nast Traveler. Of course, that airfare binge means that things are pretty tight financially right now—we’re living on bean soup this week, and who knows what next, but I think the pay-off will be worth it.
Besides, who’s complaining about bean soup? This particular one was inexpensive and, thanks to the slow-cooker, remarkably easy, just white beans, mirepoix, garlic, thyme, and tomatoes, garnished with a little bit of Parmesan and olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. We had it as-is the first night, then pureed the leftovers, keeping the consistency slightly chunky. I’ve eaten it for lunch every day this week.
Simple and satisfying, cheap and easy, an ideal home-cooked meal. I’m not even sick of it yet.
Tuscan White Bean Soup
From the Gourmet Slow Cooker, by Lynn Alley
2 cups dried white beans, such as cannellini or navy
6-8 cups water
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig thyme [I used more.]
1 14½-ounce can crushed tomatoes [I used a 26-ounce box of chopped Pomi tomatoes and less water.]
4-6 tablespoons olive oil, for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish
1. Rinse and sort through the beans. Place them in the slow cooker and add enough of the water to cover. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or until the beans are somewhat tender. Or, soak the beans overnight in water to cover, then drain, rinse, and transfer to the slow cooker. Add the water to cover.
2. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, and tomatoes and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until the carrot and beans are very tender. Stir in salt to taste. Remove and discard the thyme.
3. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve immediately.