Winter Solstice 2021: A Pot of Green Lentils

Posted on Dec 20, 2021 in Books, Food, Nature, News

As I set out to write this midwinter reflection, I cook a pot of lentils. (This is our earth.) Cooking my way to clarity. Or as Montreal writing friend Kate Henderson said in her Christmas card to me the other day, “writing” these days “takes the form of thinking.” Thinking. Cooking. Reading. Listening. I’ve been eavesdropping on many conversations: Indigenous-Ukrainian Relationship Building Initiative on the Canadian movement for Truth and Reconciliation (no I am not Ukrainian, but it doesn’t matter). Jonathan Franzen and Greg Jackson on climate action. Margaret MacMillan and Roy Jacobsen looking back on the paradoxes of war, the aftermath: both the benefits (the way positive societal change is accelerated) and the destruction (how people and species are destroyed and displaced).

And so in this season of peace, their questions mix and mull in my mind: What happens when we share our stories of this land, human being to human being? What healing, what joy, and what partnerships are born? What if we approach the climate fight like a war, investing all of our resources in it, all of our labour, accelerating innovation, and recovering a common purpose as we do so? What if the climate war is already lost and the way forward instead is to build stronger, more resilient communities, finding hope through smaller victories? Tackling the battles we know we can win now: stopping the overfishing of the world’s oceans; eliminating plastic waste; preventing the desertification of arable lands; halting the destruction of boreal forests; rainforests and peat bogs; welcoming the displaced of our own and other species (offering sanctuary to the migrant, conserving and rebuilding habitat); supporting our local farmers market; starting a community garden?

I wrote in my journal the other day: “Dreams are trying to force their way to the surface of my mind.”

I wonder if this pandemic, as it drags on, is a preparation (Rest, Renewal, Dream) for this much greater struggle already upon us?

My pot of Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter is done.  I serve myself a bowl and give thanks. This is our earth. In a year of drought, fires, and flooding: water from the North Saskatchewan River, du Puy lentils from southern Saskatchewan, salted butter from the interior of British Columbia; yellow onion, chili peppers and Russian garlic from Edmonton farms. Aroy-D Coconut milk from Thailand (my haircutter says it’s the best). Indian curry powder from who knows where. Hands passing to hands passing to hands, from picking, to packaging, to shelves: my vision of “supply chain management.” My vision of the networks, human and otherwise that have been laid bare by this pandemic, urging us to reach out and take hold as we welcome a new year.  


  1. Kate
    December 21, 2021

    Thank you, Audrey, for the link to the Indigenous-Ukrainian Relationship Building Initiative. I have found that the most informative resources on Truth & Reconciliation have come from friends in Alberta. I also appreciate your broadening thought as the year winds down amidst more pandemic news. I am hoping you will share with us your recipe for Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter, which sounds delicious. Perhaps we could all share a favourite recipe right here? I will go away to really think about it. Not only heart-warming but keeping ingredients in mind…

  2. Barbara Roy
    December 21, 2021

    I always appreciate your thoughtful essays…and the soup sounds wonderful!

  3. Agnes
    December 21, 2021

    Audrey, your words & thoughts are warm, thoughtful & soothing. Thank you!

  4. Mary
    December 21, 2021

    I loved this message. I’ll get the recipe from you later.

  5. Allison
    December 21, 2021

    Hello, Audrey. Thanks for the lovely and inspirational ideas. I too would love the recipe, but I’ll e-mail you directly for that.

  6. Linda
    December 21, 2021

    Grateful, as always, for these much anticipated quarterly reflections, Audrey. I, too, have discovered some wonderful sources of wisdom and challenge in various online courses and videos on Facebook. We are living in a transition time, to be sure… a time of waiting for ‘the dreams to force their way into our minds’ as you say and then, perhaps, appropriate actions will emerge with more clarity.

  7. Audrey
    December 21, 2021

    Due to popular demand, I have inserted the link to the recipe, above. I should tell you I have changed it somewhat: I add more garlic, more curry, more hot pepper and cut down on the broth by half a cup. It depends on your tastes. Stir and enjoy!

    • Kate
      December 22, 2021

      Thank you so much, Audrey. Looks like the kind of soup that will urge dreams to the surface…best to you this season!!

  8. Linda Bumstead
    December 22, 2021

    Hi Audrey,
    I am also concerned about Reconciliation and climate change among other pressing issues. I often find these issues overwhelming. It was reassuring to read your positive thoughts and even practical ideas.
    I recently read a book I think you would enjoy. It is Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan. Esi Edugyan was born in Calgary but her parents are first generation Ghanian immigrants. She looks at visual art, literature and film to illuminate the Black experience in global culture. I thought you would be particularly interested in her views on story telling.
    Thank you for the lentil soup recipe.
    All the best in the New Year!

  9. Audrey
    December 22, 2021

    Thank you, one and all! Yes, I think you’ll like that soup. Yes, there is a lot of good work happening on the Truth and Reconciliation front here, although probably not fast enough. Yes, I am familiar with Esi Edugyan’s work. Thank you for the recommendation. I have a stack of books by my bed but adding another one is a little like throwing a log on the fire, which we can use this time of year. Happy Christmas and Peace in the New Year!

  10. Jo- Ann
    January 1, 2022

    Happy New year Audrey – sorry I am so late – time flies. I always appreciate your thoughtful writing – thanks so much.

    • Audrey
      January 1, 2022

      Wonderful to hear from you, Jo-Ann, on this first day of the New Year.