Magic minestrone

I’ve gone over this in my head quite a bit, trying to decide whether or not to address my current situation on this blog, as I like to keep things quite positive here. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. However, I feel that making no mention at all would be sort of dishonest … It’s practically all I can think about. So! I’ve decided to intertwine my tragic tale with pictures of delicious comfort food – try to lighten the drama a little. Plus my post about my zucchini soup recipe is one of the most consistently popular posts I’ve written in my 3 months of blogging, so why not give the people what they want?

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Coincidentally, that zucchini soup post is sort of also where this story starts. At the end of it, I briefly mentioned that I’d been offered my first ‘real’ job – loosely defined: a job at an office, where the dress-code does not require one to wear 10 items of makeup or more, where I need not be addressed as if I were a dog and, most importantly, with work related to my field of study. I was thrilled! Not having an EU passport in the Netherlands makes it very difficult to get a job here, so this really felt like a small miracle. I would finally have something impressive to put on my CV, and – who knew? – this job might even lead to something else.

The next month went by ‘like a dream’, if I may be so bold. Working two days a week gave my life more structure so that I became more productive on my off-days. Plus, for the first time, I actually really enjoyed working, and looked forward to days at the office. In my head my summer stretched itself out before me, all pastel-coloured work blouses and awesome work parties (preferably held in beautiful gardens) and days off spent writing my thesis in the sun (cough) by a canal – complete with super cool funky summer music, obviously.

I guess my tone sort of gives away the surprise ending but here goes: I lost my job. Or at least, for all intents and purposes, I lost my job. There is still a teeny tiny chance that I can go back to work, but it will be at least five weeks, and, given the level of assistance I’ve been dealing with, likely much more. And no – I didn’t show up to work drunk or call my boss ugly or delete any important data files or anything. My big mistake was trusting that the job agency in charge of my employment would be competent enough/bothered to do their job and take care of getting me a work permit.
They weren’t. They also didn’t give me even as much as the semblance of an apology.

I could go into the whole sordid story, quote the many enraging email conversations I’ve had regarding this issue, and then moan about my sad fate. But I’m already doing an awful lot of those things offline, so suffice it to say that I’m not only furious, but incredibly discouraged, frustrated and – yes – a teeny little bit homesick.

Hence the soup. This is my new favourite, adapted from a minestrone recipe I found here.

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It’s hearty, comforting, and, importantly, healthy, so I can return to the industrial-sized pot I make 2-3 times and still consider it only one meal. (Admittedly, ‘portion sizing’ is not one of my strong suits.) Because, yes – while I’m dealing with this absolute load of … manure (sorry Papou) … I’m also trying to fit back into my jeans!
I’d throw myself a pity party, except that this soup is so good that I feel only great delight when I’m eating it. Plus no longer being able to fit into my clothes wouldn’t exactly show the incompetent idiots hardly-working folk at the job agency the error of their way. I’m trying to feel better after all, and wearing sweatpants outside in the Netherlands will only earn you further antipathy.

Maybe I’m homesick for an idealized version of home. I’m not sure. This sort of thing probably happens to foreigners in all countries. All I know is that every time someone who is allegedly ‘competent’ and ‘in charge’ of taking care of things for me tells me that they ‘don’t know’ and are ‘waiting for a call from x person’ on the matter, I want to scream a little bit, and then apply for that person’s job because SERIOUSLY?! I took more responsibility than that when I was 17 and working part-time at a café. And then every time I have to contact one of these people to prompt an update after two days of silence, I want to get into my bed with my entire pot of soup and the complete Friends box-set and never emerge again.
Soup or ice cream. Depending on the level of despair I happen to be feeling at that moment.

When I first found out, I stepped outside of the office and onto the gorgeous Pieterskerk square. My indignant sobs echoed poetically/embarrassingly against the church as I tried to regain my composure for what had suddenly become my last day of work. I swore that I was done with this country and its load of bureaucratic hooey. Some very strong language was uttered.

But at the moment I’m feeling optimistic.
I have awesome friends who are a 7 hour plane ride away but who send me treats and hilarious letters in care packages. I have friends who stoically listen to my self-pitying rants and then, as if by pure magic, manage to make me laugh. I have my wonderful family, and a beautiful new baby nephew. I have the maple sugar hearts my grandpa made for me and that I received by post at the time it seemed I needed them the most. And I have my knight in shining armour, a certain blondie working tirelessly to right the injustices inflicted on me.

I also have this soup. And whatever you’re dealing with at the moment, you can have it too!

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For a huge amount (8-10 bowls), you will need:
1 tbsp oil (15 ml)
1 onion
1 large carrot
3-4 cloves of garlic (you can obviously adjust this as you please!)
3 stalks celery
1 large zucchini
1 cup green beans
as much spinach as you please! I used about 8 cups (raw)
2 cans (4 cups) diced tomatoes
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup basmati rice
Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt & pepper – to taste
and, optionally, parmesan cheese for topping
(I forgot to include the celery and the rice in the picture – clearly I’m more distressed than I thought!)

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Dice all of your veggies into roughly the same size. In a big pan, get your oil going on a medium heat, and then add your onion, carrot and celery; once they’ve softened just a bit, add your chopped garlic and season as you like. (I season every layer, but it’s a matter of personal preference of course.) After the veggies have been cooking about 5 minutes, add your tomatoes. Let simmer another 5 minutes. Now add your diced zucchini and green beans, cover with vegetable broth, lower the flame to a low simmer and cover your pot. Give all of this about 10-15 minutes to cook.

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When the veggies have softened, add the rice directly to the soup and stir it in. Cover again and allow the rice about 15 minutes to cook. Now your patience might be wearing thin, but you’re on the home stretch! Once the rice is done, stir your spinach in and, as soon as it’s wilted down, you’re ready to serve.

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For an extra bit of comfort, I like to break off chunks of parmesan right into my bowl. This way, I end up with gooey, melty, delicious bites of cheese in my spoon. What better way to soothe your weathered heart than with melty cheese nestled between slices of buttery zucchini and swimming in delicious tomato broth?

Now I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and with a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance/harassment, I’ll be back with some better news in no time.

3 thoughts on “Magic minestrone

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, 2013! | Sophie in Clogs

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