Pasta With Garbanzo Beans Soup

Small Plates, Appetizers as Meals
Marguerite Marceau Henderson
Gibbs Smith, 2006

Soup GarbanzoSimple. Satisfying, Beautiful. Inventive. Traditional. These are the words I use to describe the recipes developed and/or refined by Marguerite Marceau Henderson. She is the only cookbook author that has intrigued me enough to buy a second book.

I met Ms. Henderson years ago when we both released books about the same time and we were guests at the Women’s Literary Club. She was the hit of the day and I understood why.Unknown-1

The simplicity and flavors of this traditional soup make it a favorite and the ingredients make it healthy and satisfying. It is a good meal when I’ve spent the day in self-chosen solitary confinement and not given a thought to what’s for dinner. It’s even better when the weather is a little cool and the body wants comfort.

Unknown-2But looking at it and now thumbing through her book splattered with smudges and notes, I will have to share a few other recipes in the future. She is especially creative with interesting snaps of flavor the home cook can have trouble mastering. I think you will enjoy them. At least I know my husband does and so have guests.


2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 carrots peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced (here I cheat with one, ah well)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water (or what I want)
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans with liquid (Ick, I rinse them)
1 cup dry small pasta (ditalini, shells, farfallini, orzo)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 T chopped, fresh rosemary
1 T chopped, fresh basil
4-5 C fresh spinach leaves
1 C grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan heat oil and sauté onion, celery, and carrots for 3 to 5 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, north, and water; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add beans, pasta, and salt. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes until pasta is cooked through. Stir in rosemary, basil, and spinach; cook on hot heat until spinach is just wilted. Serve at once with cheese on top. Makes 4 servings.






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The Guaymas Chronicles, La Mandadera

David E. Stuart
University of New Mexico Press, 2003

booksFollowing an anthropologist through a study can be a surprising treat or a boring exercise with many skipped sentences in search of what you’re trying to glean. I brought this book home only because it was about the Mexican state of Sonora and available at my local library.

It begins with the back story of Stuart leaving an unhappy time in 1970s Ecuador. He returns to Empalme, Mexico to reunite with his betrothed and the story slowly dances along with a bit of background here and there, an introduction to her family, and a tidy description of his days. Unfortunately, his betrothed is pregnant and after emotional misgivings and much pleading, it is decided he will wait for her in Guaymas for four months while she leaves on obscure family business. This anthropologist is not going to be too tidy about things.

David E. Stuart, Provost Emeritus and the University of New Mexico

David E. Stuart, Provost Emeritus and the University of New Mexico

Half-way down page 38 the story began. A Mexican friend asked if he still planned on marrying a woman visibly pregnant by another. When he shrugged undecided and said he felt like a fool the friend replied, “We are all fools. We are born fools, we live fools, we die fools,” and then added the difference is how gracefully we behave as fools. At last. Mexican character and heart shining through anthropologist notes and personal story.

On that same page Lupita is first mentioned. She is introduced by name as Stuart’s shoe shine boy’s patron. The person who looks after him.

Sonora is in the northwest of Mexico and borders Arizona.

Sonora is in the northwest of Mexico and borders Arizona.

Stuart begins immersing himself as an anthropologist into the daily life of middle class Guaymas, but his reputation as the man whose woman was pregnant by another preceded him in all his contacts. Perhaps at first blush not the best way for a theoretically neutral anthropologist to record, but it certainly cut through some layers of formality that otherwise may never have been touched.

Lupita turns out to be a wily, intelligent street orphan assumed to be ten with no one to fend for her. She convinces Stuart to hire her as his agent, La Mandadera, to run errands, take his laundry, and soon she is arranging his trip into Tucson to buy small appliances and new tires. She becomes his middleman when he reluctantly agrees to help a widowed American find a Mexican wife.
Her understanding of percentages, her cut of the deal, and her constant monitoring of his life’s activities are both amazing and a little frightful as she makes herself indispensable and awkwardly visible in his life.

Ignacio Pesqueira, governor of Sonora in the 1860s and a ferocious fighter against Americanos to the north who would not stay out and wanted to annex Sonora for the U.S.

Ignacio Pesqueira, governor of Sonora in the 1860s and a ferocious fighter against Americanos to the north who would not stay out and wanted to annex Sonora for the U.S.

Through the summer Stuart describes many local people and gains lifetime men friends. An anthropologist’s notes record the activities in working-class nightclubs well past midnight, the menus in restaurants, the idioms of language. As El Güero (Whitey) he also travels through several social layers, occasionally taking the time to explain his view of how manners and customs are different in the U.S. and Mexico. But the story that grows to prominence is around Lupita who submerges him into the life of a street child.

Guaymas Chronicles had a surprising emotional appeal with the spirit of Lupita who after years still watched nightly for her mother to appear where she was last seen while daily she watched after the younger shoe shine boy. Recordings of human life naturally weave a story and the story of Lupita, La Mandadera, is a wrenching experience through street life of a child reflected against the local middle and upper class.

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The Harrowing Drive Home From the Grocery Store

The four mile drive from the grocery store this afternoon was harrowing.
Being the sometimes too polite in a crowd person I was hurrying to return my cart to the cart stand, return to the car, and get out of my parking space because it was busy and three cars were stacked up so the first car could have my parking space. I notice things like that and feel responsible. Somehow compelled to action for another’s convenience.

So I quickly wheeled the cart to its designated space, and with keys in hand, popped into the car and prepared to back up. Too quickly I glanced and began backing up. I glanced again and saw a woman doing a James Brown hot steppin’ with her cart backwards.

I stopped yes, but not before all blood drained from her face and a look of complete fear overtook every feature. I motioned her to go, but why should she trust the idiot fool driver (me)? I mouthed sorry, sorry, sorry to her. She had managed to swallow once again.

Three quarters of the way home I berate myself. Whenever I do something foolish while driving I re-enact, tell myself what better action could be chosen and remind myself what possible consequences could have come from it. I put myself on trial. I do not want to kill another human by silly error.

And I hate inconveniences like talking to policemen when I’m at fault, paying for damages (beach vacations are so much more fun), and being without a car if it’s damaged.

I wasn’t home yet. The last stoplight is a big left turn onto a boulevard (fancy name for this street), with sidewalks on either side that back up to a six foot cement wall that goes forever to hide private backyards. Not one house faces the street here.

I see a girl about two feet tall on the sidewalk. What? Thirty, forty pounds? Even I could pick her up. Long blond hair swinging. A simple summer dress that looks worn, maybe second hand. Alone. I note traffic. Many cars. All with strangers who can wait because this street often is without traffic (witnesses). I am on the wrong side of the street to stop. I may frighten her. I may look like a pedophile. I may be making a big deal over nothing. I HATE decisions like this. I make my left turn in front of her because I am in traffic. I don’t see where she goes.

Should I go back? She’s a little child alone. Kindergarteners are theoretically old enough to walk to school. I drive about twenty feet and turn around. She is walking down my street in the opposite direction of my house.

Another big decision for me here. How to approach a little girl alone without scaring the bejeebers out of her. So I pulled up alongside, fiddled with my windows because I always get them confused when I’m nervous and finally get it open.

“Are you okay? Would you like a ride?” Yes! I know! Don’t get into cars with strangers. Luckily she told me no. “I’m going to my grandma’s.”

“Okay. I’ll watch you.” I stayed behind her and watched her walk passed about ten houses and then turn in. I came home thinking how fragile everything is. And if that little girl tells grandma a stranger followed her well, that’s okay with me. Maybe next time she won’t be alone. At least not until she’s a little heftier and older looking.

I don’t like making these decisions and I don’t like that it no longer feels safe for a little girl to walk down the street. What happened??? I walked down the street alone to and from school at that age and I loved it. I loved the dawdle time, the kick the rock time, but if this is the new face of driving home from the grocery store, I’m going out to eat more.

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Roving South

Willard Price
John Day, 1948

booksThe pleasure of travel books written between before memoirs became popular is the voice of the writer and the insights to living in the times. Tone has the pleasant quality of a friend who knows you’re along on the trip for a good time of talking to strangers, discovering a little history, and generally avoiding introspection.

Willard Price is an extraordinary travel guide on a tour where he

The author himself, years after his one of many adventures.

The author himself, years after his one of many adventures.

knows you didn’t buy a ticket to hear about his heartbreaks, career dramas, or parental guilts interspersed with wordy descriptions of sunsets. Over the course of one trip that took two years he and his wife traveled through Mexico, Central America, South America, and back up through the Amazon and into the Caribbean. The trip took place immediately after WWII when by today’s standards few traveled, and the luxury of the plane trips he took would have been exotic and sophisticated.
Current living conditions described a better portrait than my schoolbooks ever touched on. It’s only humorous that in the 1940s Price complains of Walgreen’s Drugstore taking over historic Mexico City real estate (Why did I think that was a new phenomenon?), but the book was a primer for politics and social issues we don’t hear about in the States.

Eva Peron. Because early explorers wiped out most indigenous people, many South Americans and especially Argentineans are of European heritage.

Eva Peron. Because early explorers wiped out most indigenous people, many South Americans and especially Argentineans, are of European heritage.

There were the quirks like Panama’s way of drawing a color line between whites and Indian in public places by referring to the “Gold Only” which would be white and “Silver Only,” or all others. More educational were descriptions of several countries that supported Hitler’s philosophy. Chief fan at the time was President Peron of Argentina. The intrigue of Argentinean politics was placed within a country rich in education, food, and surety of racial superiority. The musical Evita will ever be changed for me, but Peron was a lightweight measured against the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo who was nicknamed “Beautiful Murder” after having killed 12,000 people in one day.

Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of Dominican Republic from 1942 to 1952.

Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of Dominican Republic from 1942 to 1952.

The Americas is a continent of contrasts, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising to read about the social conditions of Argentina’s neighbor, Uruguay. Uruguay was made up primarily of Italian immigrants who were thriving under government terms of education paidfor all citizens through college, free medical care for everyone, no fathers allowed to skip financial or inheritance laws regardless of whether they married the mother or

Why does a good guy not have a good photo? Juan de Amezega, president of Uruguay during WWII.

Why does a good guy not have a good photo? Juan de Amezega, president of Uruguay during WWII.

not, and an eight hour workday for all!
Price was interesting enough in his geography, history, and present-day wrap-ups that halfway through the book I wondered if he and his wife were faring well. I decided to believe they were when after a cruise on the Amazon where pajamas were the only allowed daywear, they slept in hammocks, and were given only one meal a day of a little meat, and they did not complain.

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