Friday Series: Vegetable Soup

Here’s the first installment of my Friday series about practical theology, food and keeping a day of abstinence from meat. I’ll be talking a little bit about why the Catholic Church keeps Friday as a day of abstinence and then the recipe will be at the bottom. Sorry there’s no picture – the last time I made this it disappeared too quickly…

So, why abstain from ‘flesh and fowl’ one day a week? And why Friday?

Well, the idea of giving up meat one day a week is properly a penitential practice as well as a commemoration of Good Friday. A penitential practice something that reminds us to turn back to God and to give to others, doing something corporeal (for our body) that reminds us of the spiritual. A penance is repenting from sin and also an act which helps a person do this, so giving up meat, or for some people, giving up something else or doing a special charitable act, keeps us aware of how much we need God and His help to stay on the straight and narrow, as it were.

Giving up meat, which is historically a luxury for many people, could perhaps be related to looking to our heavenly food, the Body and Blood of Christ. In addition, it lends well to the practice of taking the money you would have used for meat and giving it to the poor. Nowadays it is not uncommon for Catholics to give up something else or do a special charitable act which will help them turn from sin and remember Christ’s Passion.

As a spiritual practice I have found a day of abstinence quite helpful. Remembering that I shouldn’t eat something has also often reminded me that I ought to remember to do something else too. It has also helped me think about what I eat and how much I spend on food, which, in turn, reminds me that everything I have is a gift from God, even salvation, which comes from the greatest sacrifice, that of Jesus Christ.

Recipe: Vegetable Soup

for 2, but easily doubled, tripled etc.

2-3 good sized carrots and/or parsnips

3-4 good sized potatoes

1 onion

1 tablespoon oil

Spices to taste (see Note)

1/4 cup red lentils

Water or vegetable stock

  1. Peel and chop all vegetables into bite-size pieces.
  2. Heat oil in soup pot and cook vegetable until onion is cooked and translucent.
  3. Add spices (see Note).
  4. Add lentils and enough water to just cover the vegetables.
  5. Bring to a boil, stir well so lentils don’t stick to bottom of pot, then cover and simmer for half an hour or so, until lentils are cooked and vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.
  6. Mash, hand blend or pulse in blender until smooth.
  7. Eat with bread, yogurt, naan bread etc.

Note: This recipe is quite versatile and depending on how I feel I’ll add curry paste and cumin to make it more like a curry, coriander seeds and garlic powder for class, or just salt and pepper for a nice, plain soup. Experiment and let me know how it goes!



Friday Series: Cooking With Less

Next Friday I’m going to be starting a little series about cooking healthy and cheap food. However, this is Against the Stream, so my “spin” on this oft blogged topic is Fridays as days of abstinence and what that really means.

For those of you who don’t know, Catholics traditionally give up (abstain from) meat on Fridays, remembering Good Friday and Christ’s crucifixion and preparing for Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection. In my Anglican Use Catholic parish we take this seriously and are asked to observe Fridays as ‘days of fasting and abstinence from flesh and fowl in remembrance of the passion of our Lord’. I’m not the best at remembering His passion on Fridays or cooking without meat, so often I don’t, but it is a habit, both culinary and spiritual, that I’d like to get into.

The point of giving up meat specifically is that, historically and presently, it is often fairly expensive, and by not spending money on meat but choosing to eat eat simply, you are supposed (in theory) to give more to God and to the poor. This tradition is often forgotten or bypassed these days, but I would like to bring some perspective to it and offer up a few ideas both for easy, cheap meals and for how we can practically apply theology to our lives.

Obviously, Fridays are my first choice for the day on which to do this, but does anyone out there on the Interwebs have any questions, comments or suggestions? I’m still pretty new to this and would welcome ideas before I publish the first one next Friday. 😀