Author's note: After several months of hiatus, I've been inspired to return to the Ministry of Soup, by a leading to help nurture and nourish the full-time occupiers of Occupy Poughkeepsie.
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Ever since the Occupy Wall Street movement took Zuccotti Park on Sept 17, I had been watching and reading and trying to understand the movement. As a life-long activist, I have been discouraged by apathy for a long time. To find a group of people so inspired by the justness of their cause as to be willing to sleep outside and risk arrest and police brutality captured my imagination. As October rolled around, the movement began to spread and I learned of a small group trying to get started in Poughkeepsie, near where I live. I made connection with the group through email, but something held me back from attending the first march on October 15. I think I was uneasy and needed to meet the people involved and get a feel for their commitment to non-violence before taking to the streets.
On Sunday, the 16th, I learned that Occupy Poughkeepsie did not intend to be just a simple march through downtown, but was set up as a full-time encampment. As I left my Quaker meeting after our monthly potluck, the weather was turning grey, damp and chilly. A message came through on my Blackberry. We're in the park, we need food and water. I knew immediately that it was time for the Ministry of Soup to spring into action.
Fortunately, I had just been shopping at Krishna Indian Grocery so I had a good supply of dried lentils, which cook faster than other legumes. I decided to make a modified red lentil dal to warm and nourish the folks in the park.
I started by chopping 2 large onions and 3 cloves of garlic. I heated some oil in my biggest soup pot and then sauted the onions and garlic. When they were translucent, I added 1 large can of whole tomatoes, which I broke up roughly with my cooking paddle, and a large can of diced tomatoes. I threw in about 1 lbs of red lentils and 2 cups of brown rice and added enough water to cover it all by a couple of inches. I cooked it over medium heat.
As the soup cooked, it thickened and I added more water to keep it at a nice consistency for a hearty soup. I seasoned it with garam masala, black pepper, salt, tumeric, and uwe plum vinegar.
While it was piping hot, I took the whole pot out to my car and drove it to Hulme park in Poughkeepsie. Since I didn't know what kind of supplies they had, I stopped at the store for bowls, spoons and supplemented the whole mess with a large bag of day old bagels and a giant jar of peanut better.
When I arrived at the park, I discovered that the occupiers had been subsisting on pizza for 2 days - not very nutritious or financially sustainable. Some were a little reluctant to try the strange soup at first, but after a couple of guys tried it and exclaimed that it was delicious, so even the 'picky eaters' were diving in.
I was received with graciousness and gratitude and stayed for the General Assembly where I found tremendous caring and earnestness. I came down to the park to fill and warm stomachs. I left with a warm heart.