Comfort Food for the Soul

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Comfort Food for the Soul

It’s cold. It’s the raw, nasty kind of cold. The kind of cold that makes your bones hurt kind of cold. The kind of cold that makes you tear up, and then watch your tears freeze kind of cold. The kind of cold that radiates up from the floor and gets in from the walls kind of cold. The kind of cold that makes me reach for the warm kind of comfort food.

Comfort food is usually something that takes me back to my childhood, to my momma’s food. Everyone’s comfort food is different, and mine is called “adasee.“ When it is cold, my mom’s lentil dish brings me comfort.

It’s a thick soup, a super-simple, warm, ooey-gooey comfort goodness that starts with the stomach and reaches up to your heart and then back into your soul kind of comfort food.

Adasee is a really simple dish. You start with lentils. Almost any kind of lentils would do, but a kind that won’t turn to mush when cooked is best. (These days, my mom likes a kind of red lentils for it.) Here are the ingredients:

1 cup of lentils
2 cups of water

Bring the water to boil, then add the lentils and the following ingredients:

A little bit of salt
A little bit of cinnamon
About 3 teaspoons of butter

When the mixture has cooked for about 20-30 minutes on a slow boil, mix a little bit of flour with some water, and add it to the soup. That’s it. Inexpensive, yummy, vegetarian, and high protein. And oh so good.

Put some in a small bowl and “Noosh-e jaan,” May it be sustenance to your soul. That’s the Persian phrase for bon appétit.

I like mine simple, the way my mom makes it. Some people go wild, adding fried onions, garlic, turmeric, vegetable/chicken stock, and other ingredients. To each his/her own. May it be sustenance to your soul.

(Azita Mehran / Flickr )

I have been thinking of this lentil dish and how it comforts my soul — and wondering what brings comfort to our soul. Have you looked into your soul? Do you know what the comfort food for your soul is, when the cold season of the heart and soul hits hard?

I have been wondering what it would be like for us to be comfort food to one another. I wonder what it would be like for our touch to bring comfort. I wonder what it would be like for our glances to bring comfort. I wonder what it would be like for our words to bring comfort.

Comfort food is usually not fast food. Comfort food usually takes time to slow cook. I wonder what it would be like to take our time in our friendship. I wonder what it would be like to take our time in love. I wonder what it would be like to take our time, to have the spices of our life — the sweet and the salty, the exhilarating and the comforting — come together.

We speak so often of finding “passion” in our life, especially in our romance. And yet when the cold winter hits, we usually reach not for the passionate and the exotic but for the comfort.

May we learn to cherish the comfort as well as the passion.

May we cherish those who comfort us.

May we be a comfort to those around us.

Noosh-e Jaan.
May it be comfort and sustenance for your heart and soul.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Thursday.

He is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

Omid is the editor of the volume Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, which offered an understanding of Islam rooted in social justice, gender equality, and religious and ethnic pluralism. His works Politics of Knowledge in Premodern Islam, dealing with medieval Islamic history and politics, and Voices of Islam: Voices of Change were published 2006. His last book, Memories of Muhammad, deals with the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad. He has forthcoming volumes on the famed mystic Rumi, contemporary Islamic debates in Iran, and American Islam.

Omid has been among the most frequently sought speakers on Islam in popular media, appearing in The New York TimesNewsweekWashington Post, PBS, NPR, NBC, CNN and other international media. He leads educational tours every year to Turkey, Morocco, or other countries, to study the rich multiple religious traditions there. The trips are open to everyone, from every country. More information at Illuminated Tours.

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