what you can rely on

Certain things in life can be counted on.  For example, if you forget your umbrella, it will rain very hard.  If you are running late, there will be traffic.  If you are early to meet someone, they will be late, and vice versa. This is known as Murphy's Law.  Murphy was a real guy, it turns out, and pretty cranky about the "commonplace" interpretation of what he set out to posit as a serious principle of defensive design.  We regular old nimrods who do our thinking outside the field of aeronautics take his law to mean, simply, than anything that can go wrong, will.  Apparently there was some more nuance to it.  Nimrod, you may as well know, was also a real guy (the great-grandson of Noah), and he did not live long enough to see our feeble-minded culture sully his good name with insulting associations, perishing as he did long before Elmer Fudd came along, and so probably he was not cranky. If you would like to read an excellent piece of writing decrying the low-down, dirty practice of name-calling, look no further than here.  Take that, snarky Ann Coulter.  Take it and get back on your broom. If you would like to know why I am prattling on about Murphy's Law and restored faith in humanity when I meant to be talking about lentils, all I can tell you is that it traces to my having attended the Parent Education Night event that was the concluding element of the driver's ed process for my oldest daughter.  Commonplace interpretations of the Murphy legislation were all over the place.  If you are tired, and slightly freaked out by life's recent twists and turns, and are among the few who are more or less on time to class, it will follow that several people will prance in up to half an hour late and suffer not even the slightest reprimand, and that the instructor will have--through no fault of his own--both a tendency to trip over the same spot on the carpet every time he paces across it (which is often, as he favors a mobile and frisky lecturing technique) and a set of odd habits (weird coughing!  repetitive phrasing!) that once you notice them, make it impossible for you to form a coherent thought about anything but this.  It will follow that you will run out of yarn on the project you brought along about 45 minutes into the 2 hour class, and that after he shows you the petrifying video about the bereaved parents of honor students who brought a smile to the face of everyone they met before their untimely and preventable, grisly ends, the instructor will say not once, not twice, but seven times, "imagine you are one of those parents!" And there is nothing for it but lentil soup.  Lentil soup sends you off into this dark night fortified, it waits patiently at home for the staggered and staggering arrivals of the rest of your family, and its tiny leftover amounts morph magically the next day into lunch for three. 

Once cold weather sets in, we eat some permutation of lentil soup, cheese, bread and roasted squash at least once a week.  I develop passionate relationships with lentil soups of various types.  I love one with fancy little green French lentils and olives and greens.  I love one with red lentils and lemon and carrots, one made with whey, and a spicy coconut one.

Presently I love this vaguely Indian one, and if precedent is anything to go by, I'll make it until everyone begins to groan and it is time to branch out again.  The slightly exotic lentils in play here (urad dal and moong dal) require soaking, which is unusual for a lentil.  But I do not grudge them the little bit of fuss that they demand, because their texture is so delightful.  Really any old lentil will do.  Stir some slivered greens into this soup, or don't.  Load it up with grated cheese on top, or don't.  Consider taking some plain yogurt and mixing in a little garlic, smoky paprika and lemon zest to dollop on top.  Call it dal, and serve it over rice, with pappadums to dip into it and a little cilantro on top. Or don't.  It will bear up, and bear you up, regardless.

lentil soup 3/4 c whole urad dal 3/4 c split green moong dal

1/4 c coconut oil, ghee, or olive oil 1/4 c minced garlic 1 T ground cumin 2 t ground coriander 1/4 t ground fenugreek (not essential, but very tasty) pinch of ground cayenne 1/3 c tomato paste

salt to taste

Soak the lentils in water to cover overnight, and drain.

Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy, lidded dutch oven, and sauté the garlic for a few minutes, until fragrant.  Watch carefully, stir constantly and keep the heat low, to prevent browning.  When the garlic is softened and nicely aromatic, stir in the spices.  Now add the tomato paste, letting it mingle and sweeten a moment as you stir.  Dump in the lentils, along with 7 cups of water.  Bring it to a low boil, turn off the heat, and cover the pot.  Slide the covered pot into the oven, and leave it there for a good long while.  About two hours ought to do it, depending on how old your lentils are, but longer will not harm it.  Stir it and test for doneness and salt to taste.  Like all lentil soups, it will improve if it cools and then you reheat it, at which time it may require thinning with a little water.