lentils with goat cheese strawberries and shallots

We had to spend half a month’s paychecks to replace our car’s air-conditioning on Monday. We were sitting in the waiting area when we found out, working on our computers with the lounge’s free wifi, and we only agreed to go through with the repair after Tim had researched other options online, compared prices, realized this was the best one and I had repeated silently in my brain that “it’s only money, it’s only money” once or twice. The work that we agreed to pay for would take another four or so hours, we were told, and after only about two hours in we were hungry, so the dealership’s shuttle driver pulled up, picked us up and greeted us with a gruff, “Well, where are we going?” and barely two words more than that the whole ride. He was probably the age of or a little older than my own dad, maybe somebody’s grandpa, the kind of guy who seemed like he might smile if you knew the right thing to say (but we never figured out what that was). He played pop songs and kept the car as cold as a refrigerator, and he spent his afternoon driving single-car freelancers like us to the local Whole Foods Market. Here a girl my age was having a bad day because her personal vehicle needed a repair that she could pull from her (admittedly shrinking) savings to pay for, and a man his age was having to be the one to drive me to a place to get lunch.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about classes and wealth and poverty, not intentionally anyway. On Tuesdays like today I drop Tim off at work in Edgehill, an area in the middle of Nashville that’s filled with half-a-million-dollar renovations as well as blocks of Section 8 housing, and sometimes when I drive through the neighborhood or go to the local library, I marvel at the juxtaposition of people who can meet friends at Taco Mamacita with the people who are begging for handouts on the street. This is nothing shocking. It’s true in every city. But there are days when our two-bedroom rental feels pretty small, and there are days when it feels like a palace, just based on what I’m comparing it to in my head. I have friends on either side of the city, over in Sylvan Park or East Nashville, and to visit either I cross through areas I would have grown up calling the ghetto in order to park at their cool, clean, comfortable apartments and houses. The street Tim and I rent our house on is sweet and well cared for, with neighbors who hang out on front porches and families taking walks down the street, and some days I feel so spoiled to live on it. It’s also just a block or so off Nolensville Road, a busy strip packed with run-down retail shops. I used to think money was simple: Get a job, pay your bills, be responsible and then everything works out. But when I talk to someone who’s been out of work for a year or read the stories of girls who never knew families, I know everything’s much more complicated than that.

shallots
sliced strawberries
beautiful strawberries
lentils with walnut oil shallots and strawberries
lentils with shallots goat cheese and strawberries

Food blogging is such a luxury hobby. Generally speaking, it’s done by affluent people with good jobs and good paychecks who have extra time to devote to something they enjoy. That’s not to say all bloggers are rich or that blogging isn’t important but rather that, if you have an Internet connection and time to read or write blogs, you have a lot. I have a lot. I, the girl who was so emotionally worn out from our budget talks yesterday that I collapsed on the sofa when we got home and fell asleep for three hours, am enjoying this cushy lifestyle of working from home, alongside a husband who runs out to do our farm pickups while I’m sleeping, with a kitchen that is currently stocked with bags of vegetables ready for us to cook and eat. I spent the morning working at The Jam with my friend Rachel, weighing the pros and cons of selling the car and buying a different one, buying a cheap second car, keeping the one we have until it won’t drive anymore—and while these decisions are difficult, they’re luxuries, too. When we left the car dealership yesterday, I was feeling pretty down about our finances, like I would need to go take a second job or rethink our entire budget, and yet here I am with a budget to finagle and think about to begin with.

It occurs to me as I’m writing this that there are many kinds of wealth, from the obvious material wealth of houses and cars and vacation homes to the more intangible wealth of relationships and freedom and thought. There is the shocking wealth of suffering, which I have tasted, and the way unexpected joy can surround you in a time when logically you wouldn’t think it could, when you’ve lost your baby or are hated by a family member or are staring at your budget, thinking things won’t add up. There is the wealth of knowing money won’t satisfy, while not needing to hate it at the same time. There’s the better wealth, the kind the soul knows, that lays up treasure nobody sees on earth. And there is the wealth of having food to eat, any food at all, knowing it is the tool God gives you to nourish your body and keep it well.

Lentils with Shallots, Strawberries, and Goat Cheese

By: FoodLovesWriting.com

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Lentils with Shallots, Strawberries, and Goat Cheese

Like most cities on earth, this lentil salad is the juxtaposition of spare and luxurious---with a base of economical lentils that's topped by soft goat cheese and fresh strawberries. It is Tim's creation, and I never got to try it, so I'll give you his thoughts on it instead of my own:

from Tim: "Basically I hadn't had lentils in a long time and had kind of missed them. I love the way goat cheese pairs with lentils, and, because of the abundance of fruit this time of year, I thought strawberries (and balsamic) would really tie this dish together. And I was right! I loved it. I don't think anyone else ate any. But I liked it."

This guy. He makes me feel rich indeed.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups organic dried French lentils (or, 3 cups cooked lentils)
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1-2 ounces soft goat cheese (chèvre)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Start by cooking the lentils: Place lentils in stockpot with two to three cups of water (water should cover lentils), and resist the urge to add salt since that will increase cooking time and prevent lentils from softening. Bring mixture to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer on low heat. Be sure to check that they do not boil over while covered (release the steam once in a while). Cook until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Drain lentils (depending on the age of your lentils, cooking may take longer).

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, sauté shallots in walnut oil for 5 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and starting to brown. Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, stir and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add reserved, cooked lentils, which will deglaze the pan. Add sea salt, stir for 15 to 30 seconds and remove the pan from heat.

Place lentil mixture in a large serving bowl. Add small dollops of goat cheese and sliced fresh strawberries to the top, but do not mix them in. Drizzle 1 tablespoon walnut oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar over lentils, goat cheese and strawberries. Then, use a spoon to mix gently.

Season to taste with additional sea salt and pepper, as desired. Lentils are best served immediately or at least on the same day due to the strawberries in the mixture.

http://foodloveswriting.com/2014/06/24/lentils-with-shallots-strawberries-and-goat-cheese/

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 33 Comments

  1. Kendra

    Wow, my friend. This is rich and meaty, and I loved every word. One of my favorite things you’ve ever written. What an encouragement to have these ideas presented without an answer. That’s one of the things I love about your writing – you simply work through something and leave space for the rest of us to discover it in our unique way. It’s a valuable thing to be able to offer the world, says the girl who tries to give people answers to everything. :)

    “the kind of guy who seemed like he might smile if you knew the right thing to say (but we never figured out what that was)” – best. line. ever.

  2. Lan | morestomach

    i read a quote recently, (and i’m paraphrasing poorly), something about how one person will complain about their lot in life while another would gladly be happy with just to have half of what the complainer’s got.
    talking about finances always wipes me out too and one of the first things we did when we decided to trim a few things without putting nutrition and good food at risk was to add more lentils and beans to our diet. i’m very slowly learning about soaking the beans and cooking them over the weekend for the week’s consumption. they make great additions to salads.
    i like the idea of strawberries & tang of the goat cheese to this lentil dish.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Lan! I forgot to talk about soaking ahead of time in this post, but that’s what we did last week, too, and it was a HUGE help. So much easier to whip up dinner when the soaked and cooked lentils are all ready at the last minute. Thanks for pointing that out — and thanks for your other words, too. True and appreciated.

  3. Kathryn

    Such a wise post. I think money/budgeting is one of those really difficult things that becomes all-consuming, especially when you have an unexpected expense, and it can really feel like the world is crashing down around you as you try to make the numbers add up. I don’t actually think there’s anything else quite like it for the stress and heartache that it can cause. But of course, as you point out, it’s all relative and what feels like “poverty” to me is really an abundance of riches.

  4. Jacqui

    Sometimes I feel like it’s all too much, and I just want to curl up in a ball and have someone else take care of me. Other times, things are going so well that I’m afraid to move, for fear that something will break and all will come tumbling down around me. Yes, the wealth of it all can be overwhelming, but it helps to focus on simple things. Like strawberries. :)

  5. Joyti

    Oh, that’s too bad about the air conditioning.

    What you wrote about class so succinctly really struck a chord with me. My own neighborhood is a bit like the one you describe: multi-million dollar Victorians (San Francisco, even the tiniest condos here run over $1M) intermixed with “affordable housing” mixed with old apartment buildings, like mine. And I do agree that food blogging is a “luxury habit” (well, I’m actually quite poor but generally)…

    And how cool that we both did lentils with shallots for our last posts?! The addition of strawberries sounds delicious :)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      It’s especially too bad in Tennessee in June… haha. : ) Joyti, I only discovered your site this afternoon and I love it! Beautiful, thoughtful and inspiring. So glad to have found you. I love that we both posted lentil dishes recently, and I wonder if it has something to do with both feeling quite poor on certain days. Ha! Yet in reality we really are rich. ps congrats on graduating! No small thing at all.

  6. Erin

    Thank you for all of these reminders. It is so easy to stress about finances (I do it all the time), but really the important thing is to realize that the kinds of financial “problems” I stress about are really luxuries.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Me too. I was just thinking this morning how even being able to read is something I take for granted every day, even though I use it constantly. Reading blogs, reading emails, reading signs…. reading the ever-growing stack of books on my nightstand. I hate that I don’t see the richness of this because it is rich indeed.

  7. Sini | my blue&white kitchen

    Oh what a beautiful, thought-provoking piece of writing. You have such a precious voice, Shanna. So much wisdom, so many unanswered questions and mysteries to solve or just to wonder about… I’ll go to bed now with this post on my mind. Maybe I’ll dream about it, and most probably I’ll wake up without any conscious memories.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Sini, You’re probably tired of my thanking you for your kind, thoughtful comments, but please know how much I appreciate them. I was actually kind of nervous to post this one because money issues can be so sensitive. I should have known the blog world is filled with understanding hearts.

  8. Pingback: Blueberry Peach Crisp Recipe | Food Loves Writing

  9. Liz

    Wow, what a post. Brilliant, thoughtful, moving. Blogging may be a luxury hobby, but your words inspire people and your food nourishes them. Writing has long been a luxury hobby, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world without it; writing allows us to reflect and connect in a way that little else does.

    As far as class/wealth/poverty, I started diving into these issues a few years ago after never/rarely thinking about them, and my biggest takeaway is that there is so much nuance to class and class privilege and oppression; it is rarely cut and dried on either side of the equation. My other takeaway, and something I think you’ve pointed to here, is that the feeling of “enough” has very little to do with how much money is in the bank (although it helps considerably when basic needs are met). I know millionaires who still don’t feel like they have enough, and I know people who feel secure with $500 in a checking account. Finding meaning and worth and value in other areas of our lives is vital to feeling whole.

    Thank you for this post.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Liz, I love what you said about how writing could be considered a luxury hobby but it enriches the world. That is such a beautiful point and one that makes me think how easy it is to discount the value of art, while at the same time our souls know how much we treasure it. And that line about finding meaning and worth and value in other areas of life — YES. That is exactly what God is teaching me, that my value is in Him, not in all the empty vessels I look to fill me. You brought that to my mind with your words. Thank you.

  10. angela@spinachtiger

    You always make me feel, which may be more important than making me think, the power of your writing. I live in a great neighborhood, but a few weeks ago was taking quarters to the grocery store. Still I consider this a blessed life. xo

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