Monday, November 7, 2011

Nourishing an Occupation 6: Guest Blogger Alia Gee & #OWS

Vonn's Note: Alia and I connected through our blogs. She's been cooking for Occupy Wall Street from her home and delivering her food to Liberty Plaza. Below is her recipe for split pea soup with variations, along with an excerpt from her blog, Cooking Up Something Good.

Are you cooking for an Occupation? I'm looking for guest bloggers to write about their experiences of the Occupy movement and their food. Please contact me here (note: this link will take you to another website)

Alia: I'm very proud. I had made him a sign that said "Whose future? My future!" and he said, "No, Mommy, I have my own idea for a sign." There I am, oppressing my kid... So I told this story to my protest buddy just as the Gothamist photographer came by, and they took his picture and his awesome interview.
Friday I took down red lentils with star pasta and Snickers candy bars. (Er, in separate plastic bags.)

Chatted with Cheryl the Kitchen Lady and got the number for someone who is organizing comfort trips to greet protestors when they get out of jail. The poetry anthology at the park keeps getting stolen, so they’re asking people to email their poems to the guy organizing it. Crowded but good vibe, everyone seemed focused and determined and I saw at least one working group meeting. I always feel better when I see people sitting in a circle on the ground.

Someone needed help carrying boxes of apples and cider, three of us raised our hands but I was the only one who managed to keep up with the nervous donater. He looked around, scowling, “People aren’t volunteering as much as they did at the beginning,” he grumbled. I thought about it. When there are a handful of people, it’s easy to see how if something needs doing, You need to do it. When there are several hundred people, it’s easy to think Someone Else can do it.

My fix was to haul boxes out of the street to the police barrier, catch the eye of someone with empty hands, smile, and say, “I need you to take this box to the kitchen.” It looked like everything got where it was supposed to go, mostly, so I am satisfied with that.

Split pea soup

I love split pea soup, and I love that this recipe is both vegan and a complete protein. My friends and I meet up on Friday nights to cook together for the local Occupation.

2 big onions (or, enough to completely cover the bottom of the biggest pot you have)
Olive oil (more than 2 Tbsp… enough that you can cover all the onions at the bottom of the pot with a thin coat after you’ve stirred it)

Cook over low heat while you scan the contents of your vegetable drawer.
Finely chop up a small bulb of garlic and add it if you have it, don’t stress if you don’t.
Consider your drawer, and add (if you have it) chopped mushrooms and/or sweet peppers and/or celery.

Cook over low-medium heat, stirring at least every 5 minutes so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Add more olive oil if you think it needs it. The occupiers do not care about cholesterol. It’s very freeing.

When the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are small and brown and squishy and the peppers have done whatever it is that peppers do… add a lot of dried split peas and double the amount of liquid. (Water works, or vegetable stock if you have some you like. If you use enough onions you don’t need the stock for flavor. When it’s on sale/I’m feeling fancy, I’ve been known to use apple cider.) Stir. 

Add some barley. I usually do 2 parts peas to 1 part barley, but the soup police will not arrest you if you differ from that ratio.

Chop and add any root vegetables you have—carrots, parsnips, maybe even potatoes. Add them, and turn the heat up so it might eventually get to a rolling boil before you go to bed.
I like my peas properly dissolved, which usually means cooking them for at least three hours. What I’ve been doing for the Occupation is cooking things for an hour or two, then turning the heat off and going to bed. In the morning I turn the pot back on again, but time has worked its magic and the peas usually dissolve pretty quickly into the mush that I like. If it’s too runny at this point to safely decant into gallon Ziploc bags, I add more barley because it only takes half an hour to cook and sucks up liquid pretty well.

If you have room in your pot and want to make room in your pantry, adding 2 cans of sweet corn and/or 2 cans of diced tomatoes will add fiber and color. Yea, color!


Substitute red lentils for green split peas. They cook more quickly than the peas, which is convenient, and they look less like mushroom vomit than regular lentils. Win! The other day when I made them, I substituted star-shaped pasta for the barley so it was adorable as well as delicious.

The above is also how I make squash risotto—start with olive oil and onions and whatever I have in the veg drawer, add rice and liquid and 4 boxes of frozen squash. Stir. (If I have fresh or frozen spinach and nothing else to do with it, I’ll throw that in half way through.)

At the end the rice should be a little too damp, and then I add lots and lots of cheese. And then it is super delicious and thick but alas, not vegan.

Oh well, what a shame. More for meeee…

Thanks Alia!


  1. Thanks for sharing your space! (The link to the Gothamist doesn't show up when I look at the page?)