By Arden Rosenthal, Farm Fellow
As per usual, I’m thinking about soup. After sandwiches, it is my favorite medium of food. As a group, we haven’t made a lot of soups up here, which is surprising considering the amount of veggies we have (a lot), the amount of people we have to cook for (a lot), and the amount of time we have to cook for them (a little).
As the season turns and the weather gets colder, I’m turning back towards soup. I’m not thinking about just eating soup, though I will take some time here to brag about the incredible split pea soup I made earlier this year (scroll down for recipe!). I’m also thinking about metaphorical soups; bear with me.
At the beginning of our fellowship, we talked a little about the concept of soup. For example, did you know that if you put all the world’s species into a great big soup, beetles make up 25% of the soup? Thats a fact our cohort was stuck on for quite some time. What is perhaps a more interesting train of thought, however, is a question posed to us on our third day of the fellowship at the end of our day at Experience Learning in West Virginia.
One of our guides asked us to all think about our cohort as a big soup and to consider what ingredients we brought to it. The “ingredients” could be anything: humor, emotional intelligence, leadership, team player, etc.. Later in the fellowship I joked that I brought fashion and drama to the soup (which was met with some agreement). On the third day, however, before we had even gotten the chance to memorize each other's answers to the common question “Why did you come to AMI?”, thinking about what role I played in this new group of people felt like an impossible question to answer.
Living in an intentional community where you live and work with the same people every day is, well, intentional. I’m often thinking about what role I play, what my responsibility is to the group, and how we all interact. I’m thinking about what I bring to the soup. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t fully get to decide what I bring. That will change with each community I live in, and they’ll decide, either consciously or not, what it is I bring to the group. For example, I might think I bring fashion and drama, but everyone else might think I just bring drama.
Living and learning with and from this group of people is probably the most valuable experience I’ve had at AMI. We’ve been through a lot together from figuring out how to live in this completely new place with completely new people to grieving two of us leaving. With this being my last blog post, I’m writing this as a love letter to my cohort. In doing so, I’ve thought about what I believe they each bring to the “soup”:
Alex: Whether they want to be or not, Alex is our master facilitator and fearless leader at times. If I’m being honest, it's probably her that brings the fashion. Known for their scream-cackle, hilarious memes, and occasional hot takes on what she calls “hot garbage,” there’s no one I’m more excited to receive a podcast recommendation from.
Amanda: Clocking in at a mere 35 years old, Amanda quickly dubbed herself one of the “olds.” While I don’t see her as that much older than me, I will say she is the mom figure of the group. She’s always checking in to make sure I’ve drank enough water (I haven’t) and is great at informing us of safety hazards. It’s very possible we would have accidentally made mustard gas without her. Known for a laugh that builds on itself, great dance moves, and being my spicy sister, the best hug I’ve had up here has come from her.
Brennan: Brennan is great at keeping things light. He can literally run circles around all of us, especially when it comes to catching escapee chickens. He brings phenomenal seasonal cooking and incredible knowledge of the cloaca. Known for being an “animal scientist,” loving sad boy country music, and stroking his mustache, there’s no one I’d rather throw grass at on the farm.
Donovan: It’s no secret how much I love being around Donny Mildew. I’m not alone. He quickly became what I guess you could call the fan favorite of the group with his patience, calm demeanor, and sometimes actually really funny dad jokes. He’s great at explaining his point of view when it's at odds with someone else’s. He makes everyone feel really comfortable. Known for saying “it's so good” immediately at dinner, cleaning everyone's dishes, and having a tiny car he thinks is big, there’s no one I’d rather be driven around by.
Emily: The baby of the group, Emily is incredibly earnest. She’s great at facilitating and inviting us into vulnerable conversations. She’s a messy but loving roommate, and her facial expressions always give me a laugh. She’s constantly ready to emotionally support you in whatever way you may need. She also brings a fair amount of fashion with her off the farm jackets. Known for being secretly savage, loving miso, and bumping into things, there’s no one I would have rather had extract a tick out of my chest week 1.
G: Without G, we would have never known how compatible our group was according to astrology. I wouldn’t have laughed as much as I did without them. G knows how to speak their mind, and taught me a lot about staying true to my feelings and community care. Perhaps the greatest contribution made to our cabin was the plants they bought and nurtured. G also nurtured a love of dance parties and thus a great way to get our frustrations out. They brought an incredible amount of knowledge to our group, from plant facts to preservation. Known for their screamo bouncy dance moves, hilarious one liners, and hating being stared at by me, there’s no one I would have rather sang twinkle, twinkle little star with every night.
Gaby: First and foremost, Gaby brought an astounding long island accent. If you know nothing else about her, know this. Gaby has given me a great understanding of what it means to listen to your body, listen to your needs, and not compromise them. I admire her deeply for setting and sticking to her boundaries. Gaby knows how to cook on the fly even when it stresses her out. Her cooking always made me feel like I was home. She constantly made me laugh. Known for her myriad of nicknames, loving the bees, and missing lemons, there’s no one else I’d want as my challah sister.
Lex: Lexi, Lexi, Lexi. He’s impossible to put into a box. Lex dubbed himself “the fool” because he’s not afraid to ask questions. That’s true. Lex always invites interesting debates and makes us all evaluate our beliefs and opinions. He’s been a source of joy for a lot of us, and I’m always excited to see his stank face when dancing. Known for speaking Spanish poorly, being great at spicing foods, and his green jumpsuit, there’s no one I’d rather yell-debate in the timber frame.
We are a cohesive, if not eclectic, group. Everyone brings something unique and important to our soup - and it's intimidating to think about living apart from each other next year! (Speaking of which, we are currently looking for rental housing for next year and if anyone has leads in the Staunton/Augusta area, they would be much appreciated! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with us).
In the midst of the uncertainty of moving onto the Community Action Year, one thing I’m sure of is that I haven’t even realized all the lessons my cohort has taught me yet, and I’m excited for what the future holds for our friendship, and for the soups we’ll concoct together next.
SPLIT PEA SOUP RECIPE
Adapted from: https://www.budgetbytes.com/vegan-split-pea-soup/
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 50 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 1.5 cups each
2 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion
3 ribs celery
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. split peas (dry)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
Pepper to taste
6 cups water
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Mince two cloves of garlic. Dice the onion, celery, and carrots. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to a large pot with olive oil and sauté over medium heat for about five minutes, or until the onions are soft.
Add the dry split peas (I soaked these overnight for raster cooking), smoked paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, pepper, cayenne, salt and water to the pot. Stir to combine.
Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the water up to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to let the soup simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the peas have completely broken down and the soup is thick (keep the lid on between stirs).