sweet potato tatsoi soup | foodloveswriting.com

It’s hard to think that while this past Friday, November 2, was a day we’ll remember as the announcement of our little book, for many others, it’s part of the painful weeks of hurricane disaster recovery and rebuilding. This is always happening in life: pain and sorrow hand in hand, celebration smashed up against heartache, joy against grief.

Today, while I bring you sweet potato soup, for example, there’s someone else who doesn’t have a stove, or food, to cook with. While I nursed a cold this weekend, feeling pretty glum, someone else ran a marathon, feeling high on life. My friend’s baby girl was born two weeks before her grandma died. Even as I post these thoughts, on America’s Election Day, many of you have polls and campaigns on your minds, while, simultaneously, others of you don’t. The world is big.

tatsoi | foodloveswriting.com

We’re all dwelling in our own small worlds, inside this larger one, and we know it’s this way. It’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around, the enormity of so many people thinking so many things in so many places, and that’s why it’s often easier to focus on what’s in front of you. But there are times, I think, when we see a different reality, when someone reaches outside his or her immediate perspective and rejoices with someone else who’s rejoicing or weeps with someone else while he weeps.

We’ve seen it in the aftermath of the hurricane, as people send relief and donate to the Red Cross, Nashville Bloggers hold a bake sale and community dinners get organized by a ladies auxiliary in Pennsylvania.

I’ve seen it online in the food world, where bloggers regularly promote each others’ work and spread good content. Kristen at Dine & Dish and Sarah of The Vanilla Bean Blog are particularly good at this.

ingredient prep | foodloveswriting.com

I’ve seen it with our release of the ebook, as you guys have rejoiced with us in our celebration. Every comment, every Facebook share or like, every purchase, has felt like a huge, undeserved gift, and we’ve cherished it. People I’ve never met have emailed to tell me they bought the book. My brother-in-law got it on his iPhone. A girl I haven’t seen since college eight years ago told me that she couldn’t put it down. My friend Jacqui, one of the most gracious people I’ve ever known, wrote an incredibly thoughtful post about it.

It’s all kind of overwhelming, like a room full of wedding gifts or the gift of a Hawaii honeymoon, and when I sit here trying to think of what to say, I almost lose my voice.

We broke even by Sunday, making back everything we put into the book, financially speaking. Thank you. I was so afraid to do this ebook, so afraid that no one would buy it (or, worse, that people would buy it and it would be bad). I don’t tell you that to get your pity but to give you the truth. If you’re out there reading this and wonder about your own visions or dreams or book ideas in your head, I hope this can be the nudge for you to go after them.

sweet potato tatsoi soup | foodloveswriting.com

Sometime last month, I read an ebook called Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff by Stephen Altrogge. Like the book we would end up launching this past Friday, Create is a short, light read, the kind of thing you can breeze through in a dozen quick bursts of downtime or an hour or so of quiet. It’s just $2.99. And I mention it here because a few points Altrogge makes in it have been the kind of things to comfort my anxious mind before the book launched, when it launched, afterwards while we waited for some feedback, today while we consider what to do next.

Altrogge’s main point is that we are all creatives, every one of us; we were made this way. Some of us write and blog; others organize files or decorate houses or build houses or bake cakes; but we all create, somehow, something. You can sit on the sidelines because you’re afraid, or you can get out there on the court and do something. Sure, you might mess up, you might look ridiculous and you might completely fail. But, thing is, when you get out there and try, you are practicing and learning and getting better. You are developing your skill and you’re doing what you were made to do. You’re giving the other guys on the sidelines courage to mess up, too.

One of the biggest things I am learning about creative work is that while your work is yours, from a blog to a book to a mural, it is not you. That’s enormously freeing. We can make imperfect things and be willing to take chances and to get better over time, and we can let other people ignore or dislike what we’ve made while we do. What we make isn’t us; it’s a snapshot of where we’re at at a given moment. When we see this, when we stop being so afraid of what people will say about our work, we can start focusing on using our work to bless them—we can start looking outside our own small world and reaching into someone else’s.

That’s what I’ve hoped to do with the ebook, to get thinking outside my own insecurities and try writing what I know to be true.

What are you afraid to leap towards?*


Sweet Potato and Tatsoi Soup
Serves Four

Your area of the world may be all sunshine and blue skies in November, but in Nashville, November means soup. This version came out of sheer necessity, when a withering bunch of tatsoi (from our final CSA box this year!) kept calling my name. If you haven’t had tatsoi, it’s an Asian green with a deep color, and it could easily be swapped out for bok choy or even chard or collards, I imagine. Heady with spice and chock full of sweet potatoes, this comforting soup is perfect for these cool autumn nights.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound onions, diced (around 2 medium onions)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch chili powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 celery stalks, diced
1 pound sweet potato, roughly chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
1/4 pound tatsoi, roughly chopped or torn
Pepper (and more salt), to taste
Additional chili powder & cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.
 
Add the celery, sweet potato, thyme and salt and sauté 3 minutes.
 
Add the water and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then return to a simmer and cook until the vegetables soften, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tatsoi and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the pepper and any additional salt, chili powder or cayenne pepper if necessary. Remove the thyme and serve.

*We’d love to cheer you on.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. little kitchie

    what a beautiful, inspiring post. i am a teacher and will be passing this passage along to my creative writing students!!!:

    One of the biggest things I am learning about creative work is that while your work is yours, from a blog to a book to a mural, it is not you. That’s enormously freeing. We can make imperfect things and be willing to take chances and to get better over time, and we can let other people ignore or dislike what we’ve made while we do. What we make isn’t us; it’s a snapshot of where we’re at at a given moment. When we see this, when we stop being so afraid of what people will say about our work, we can start focusing on using our work to bless them—we can start looking outside our own small world and reaching into someone else’s.

    such great words. thank you!

  2. Jacqui

    I made a soup very similar to this one on Sunday — sweet potatoes, chili powder and cumin, black beans, greens. It’s nice to know that in a world so big, we have these small connections. Like comforting soups and good, true stories.

  3. Kathryn

    I just love the sentiment that ‘what we make isn’t us’. So often I feel like I/we all are defined by our jobs, our relationships, what we put out there into the world when, really, none of us are that simple. And I think that you’re right and it is a freeing thought because too often we can feel stifled by how the world defines us and that stops us going out there and creating. I love that you had the courage to write your story and touch so many people’s lives.

  4. ami

    I love the way you put things happening around us all together in a interesting way. I would really appreciate if you can guide me on how to write ebooks? I have always been wanting to write but had no clue that you can write ebooks too!

  5. Kim

    This post. Oh, this post. I have too many favorite parts. You inspire me so deeply.

    I’m trying to move into freelance work and writing and it’s rough. I’m looking for bloggers to intern with and applying for positions and it’s been rife with rejection at my lack of experience. The catch-22. But I keep going, thanks to writing like this that reminds me of the reasons why I got in this mess.

  6. Amy

    Shanna, where to start? Thank you so much for such a wonderfully written post. I just downloaded your book, and I can’t wait to get started reading it (as soon as I turn my last university assignment in).
    I love the notion that we are all creatives, but that what we create is not us, that it is a reflection of where we are in a given time. Thank you for that. There is a freedom in the distance between an artist and her work, just as there is sorrow that when we create something beautiful (especially in the kitchen) the pleasure is fleeting as we strive to create again.
    My problem is that I have so many dreams, so many things I want to get started on that I feel overwhelmed and don’t not where to begin. My goal for this summer holidays (I am in the southern hemisphere) is to write a book proposal and send it off. Whether I succeed or fail at least I have taken the chance and sent something into the universe. After the first one, I suppose the next challenge won’t be quite so scary.
    Thank you for an inspirational way to start my Friday morning, I can’t wait to read Written Together.
    :)

  7. MaryAnn

    Shanna, you have said it quite rightly, again. We are all creatives because we are created in the image of God who is the ultimate Creator.
    I’m afraid of trying this writing thing on another level. You would think that this spell of unemployment would have spurred me on to try it since I have had extra time. So much of my year has been spent with a deer in the headlights feeling so I haven’t accomplished as much as I have wanted to. But then again, the timing isn’t mine, it’s His & that’s freeing too, isn’t it?
    Thanks again for making me think…and once again I’d like to say how excited I am for your ebook success! You do such a great job :-)

  8. Julie

    I made this soup tonight with some changes– chicken stock for the water, mustard greens instead of the tatsoi (which I could not find) and Penzeys “Northwoods” spice blend (my go-to seasoning). The soup was wonderful on this cold fall night. I love the sweetness of the sweet potato against the bitter almost spicy hotness of the mustard greens. Thank you for a good recipe and for introducing me to tatsoi, even though I could not find it I will be on the lookout for it.

  9. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    I’ve struggled with this “it’s not you, it’s just where you are at at the moment” for so long. It can be paralying in creative work. Blogging, and cooking are processes that have really helped me with this. I too have the secret – or not so secret – hope to write a book some day, and you have been a wonderful inspiration. Thank you for that.

  10. sarah kate branine

    I know I already left a comment on this post, but I needed to tell you that this post set so many things in motion for me. And, most importantly, freed my mind of many things too. So, again, thank you : ) It’s worth saying it again!

    ps. Steve bought “Create” for me the other day and I am so looking forward to the read.

    1. Shannalee

      Sarah! That is so good to hear, and I’m so glad. ps. you should know that I still think of you every time I think about wanting beauty—and how that points to our desire for the Beautiful One. You were part of a big lightbulb moment for me this summer that has freed my mind of many things since. So thank you!

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