philosopher’s stone

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the question ‘what is truth?’ I go round and round the notion that there are objective and irrefutable truths that are simply true for everyone. Like, we all die. Or, Nora is a dog. Or water freezes at a temperature of 32 degrees. But even these ‘truths’ are relative, conditioned by mixtures of belief and context. Then there are the statements that contain a truth but not necessarily a whole truth. We convince ourselves that as long as what we actually say is true, what we omit or don’t say can remain separate from a whole truth for whatever reason. We might not want to hurt another’s feelings. We are afraid that if we tell the whole truth, we will feel shame. Or, perhaps we are simply honoring a promise to another to keep certain information private.

It is a vast subject that I’m sure will occupy my attention for some time to come.

In the meantime, in the simple context of my day to day life, alchemy in the kitchen continues to offer multiple opportunities for exploring the phenomenon of how the appearance of a truth at first can be transformed into something else, sometimes even more sublime.  Here in the kitchen this blog began years ago, albeit unconsciously as an agent of alchemy, but with a purpose that felt absolutely true nonetheless.

I made a delicious pot of bean soup the other day. Another recipe from Marcella Hazan, ‘Bean Soup With Parsley And Garlic’**, it is just five ingredients, white beans, olive oil, garlic, parsley and broth. Once again, it is all about the intersection of quality of ingredients with process. I altered the proportion of things as I so often do, anticipating  ‘soup’ vs. bean side dish. I soaked and cooked two cups of the locally grown organic white soldier beans from my larder the day before


and used almost double the garlic, parsley, and broth called for. The soup literally takes less than a half an hour to actually cook and is spectacularly rich and fragrant. I felt magic in the precise instruction of ‘6 minutes’, not once, but twice!


Slicing and sautéeing a sausage (apple chicken) and adding it my supper sized bowl of soup that first night yielded a delicious transformation, still definitively ‘soup’.


The next day I cooked some ziti, tossed it with a half cup of the warmed soup as a sauce and topped with grated fresh parmesan. Now I had a kind of thick pasta fagioli. Next day? A can of tuna mixed with another half cup with half a lemon squeezed in on top of some chopped romaine. A delicious salad! And finally, the last night, added the rest of the ‘soup’ to a pan of sautéed greens and some more fresh squeezed lemon for instant beans and greens!


So, I ask, where does the truth live in each of these transformations?

Is it a coincidence that the other photos in my camera co-existing with these bean inspired creations also inspire a change in thought pattern?  There is the ground of snow transformed from something that covers to something reflecting the promise of shade in the warm spring sun…


And the garden Buddha buried in the purity of silence and snow all winter, now transformed into one emerging in mud covered laughter…


It is humbling to consider that my very own alchemical ‘philosopher’s stone’ might continue be this cook pot in my kitchen, the place where spontaneous acts of creation feel like pre-destined truth that nourish consciousness in some way….


** Bean Soup With Parsley And Garlic  from ‘The Classic Italian Cookbook’ by Marcella Hazan

1 teaspoon chopped garlic (I used closer to 2)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used 3 or 4)

2 cups dried white kidney beans or other white beans, cooked, or 2 twenty-ounce cans drained beans)


Freshly ground pepper

1 cup Homemade Meat Broth, or canned chicken broth, or water (I used almost 3 cups chicken broth)

  1. Put the garlic in a stockpot with the olive oil and saute over medium heat until just lightly colored.
  2. Add the parsley, stir two or three times, then add the drained, cooked beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer gently for about 6 minutes.
  3. Put about 1/2 cup of beans from the pot into a food mill and purée them back into the pot (I did this part in my little four cup food processor), together with the broth or water. Simmer for another 6 minutes, then taste and correct for salt. Serve over slices of toasted Italian bread.

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