M was one of my favorite people at school – she was a year ahead of me and thus graduated after my first year, but no one really replaced her in my second year. She was one of the most driven, down-to-earth people I met – she was committed to writing in a way that I rarely saw, even though her classmates were all trying to become writers as well. Her work was unique and rooted in the places she’s lived all over the world. I enjoyed sitting on old couches with her during poetry readings and listening to what was going on in her long novel project. When I found out last month that she was going to have this same novel published this year, I was hardly surprised: it just makes sense.
It’s almost summer break, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to get back into writing. I am hoping to channel M when the school year is over and my work becomes writing the novel I’m working on. As I was thinking about her and her drive, I remembered this recipe she shared with me: it was a soup that tasted pretty much exactly like peanut butter, but which was actually chock-ful of vegetables, chicken, and spice.
To remake it I pulled veggies from the fridge that had seen better days: a sweet potato, two onions, a pile of scrawny carrots, and a pile of nearly-too-old celery. I cut it all up into small bits and sauteed the whole pile in 2 tablespoons of butter. I boiled some chicken, two breast pieces, and then I added all the boiled water into the veggies and pulled the chicken into pieces with two forks. I added half a cup of peanut butter and a small can of tomato paste to the veggies, and mixed till it looked velvety and… well, like peanut butter. I finished it with a tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and the pulled chicken bits.
The result was strange – the peanut-ness permeates everything, including things like celery, which is definitely not a normal flavor combination in the States. However, the earthy tingle in my throat from the hot sauce after I swallowed made the soup feel complete, like all the flavors were actually perfect together. I recommend giving it a shot, either with your own veggies or with the original combination suggested by various peanut stew recipes on the internet. I am using this soup like productivity fuel, as I hope to write as well and as often as M does.
While I couldn’t find the original version I used years ago, here’s the version I worked from this time: African Chicken Peanut Stew