In a recent issue of Reader’s Digest, there was a column called “Finish this Sentence.” The sentence to finish was “The Most Beautiful Sound in the World is…” I found it interesting to read people’s responses that ranged from the sound of children giggling to frogs croaking in a marsh to silence in a war zone to a well-tuned symphony to a husband snoring to a cat’s sneeze.
I love the sound of laughter—from the squeals of delight that come out of my crinkled-nose toddler to the unrestrained belly laughs of adults, but the question gave me pause to think. I thought about all the other beautiful things around me that I likely take for granted most days—the beautiful colors in a sunset, the shape of the moon, pretty reflections in a puddle, the sound of rain on a window, words in a song, the scent of chai, my husband’s accent, or perhaps kind words from a friend or stranger.
About a year ago I was out running errands with my son who was almost a year old at the time. I knew I wasn’t going to make it back home in time to feed him lunch so I needed to find something quick to avoid a toddler breakdown. The only healthy option nearby (within minutes) was a fast food place where I found a banana and a bowl of black beans. Although he happily ate his unusual meal of a banana with smashed beans, I felt a bit like a bad mom for giving him such a bizarre and limited combination of foods for lunch. As we were leaving the fast food place, I walked out carrying my son and saw our shadow on the ground and stopped for a moment. I turned to him waving an arm in the air and pointing down at our dark silhouettes on the ground, saying something like, “shadow, do you see? That’s our shadow”. Behind me was a woman exiting a Starbucks, as she walked past us, she turned around to say, “you’re a good mom, taking time to appreciate the small details that make life beautiful.” That afternoon, after feeling like a bad mom, her kind words, to me, were one of the most beautiful sounds I heard that afternoon.
What is the most beautiful sound to you?
Mediterranean Lentil Soup
Adapted from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables
1 onion, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup brown lentils
½ cup red lentils
½ small fresh chili pepper
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 quarts vegetable broth
½ teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
lemon juice or red wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil
fresh parsley, chopped
cooked farro, or other grain of choice (optional)
In a large soup pot, sauté onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender. Meanwhile, carefully pick through the lentils, removing any small stones or debris. Rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold water.
Add lentils, chili, thyme, bay leaf and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer until the red lentils have broken up and the brown lentils are very soft, 45-60 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, toast the cumin and fennel seeds in a skillet over high heat for a minute or two, until their aroma is released. Pound them in a mortar or grind in a spice grinder.
When the soup is done, add the ground spices and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if necessary, and a dash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Serve with farro (or brown rice, barley, or other grain of choice) and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley.