sweet potato soup with coriander, chipotle, and a side of circus


Everyone wants the circus act in 140 characters or less. You balance the beach ball on your head, cough up fire, and the applause is thunderous. You shimmy and shake and the crowd indulges their minor digressions, too. You’re envied, obsessed over, and given neat little platitudes whose meaning is small enough to fit on fortune cookies. Everyone’s got the shakes: they switch channels when they see displaced Syrians in tents or women holding up pictures of their loved ones still trapped under all that earth in Bangladesh. Instead, they self-medicate on gossip magazines and indoor sports that “allow you to get deeper,” but ticket collectors neglect to tell them that the floor is bottomless. The deep is whether these pants are a size 6 or if they’re a size 2. There’s already so much drama in my life, they mumble. The deep is wondering if they’re witty enough to keep up with the live-tweeting of television shows that all the “popular” bloggers do. The deep is that book that is moderately sad, but it’s a safe sad, a sad that only goes on for a few pages and then there’s the promise of idyll, that magical ending we all desire. The deep is telling other people they’re so brave, but failing to return their phone calls because they just can’t deal. The motley lot shuffle past and preach concern, but their ferocious blinking and marathon eating suggests yours is a deep for which they’re not properly equipped.

You are drowning and everyone takes pictures with their expensive phones of the water. They just want to hold you close, pat your back, and be on their way. They’ve done their charity; they’ve nodded in the right moments, but perhaps that water should be Lo-Fi or Mayfair?

And then you’re left with the empty peanut shells that cut your hands and feet, empty popcorn bags greasy with fingerprints, and a bill divided in two.

They skitter like frightened mice when you say the words, I am afraid. They muffle you quiet with pretty words like, “You’re so strong! You’ll always find your way!” Because they need a strong Felicia, their mentor, their comic relief, their guidance counselor, their human Rolodex. How would the world press on otherwise? We need our circus intact. We need the show to go on.

All these years you give, and this is the kind you’re likely to get.

It makes you tired, shut in, desperate for blooms and hot soup. It creates a need to press the mute button on the world and everyone in it. So there’s soup, oceans of it.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good. I’m GOOP’ing her book so you don’t have to.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1 large red onion, finely diced (about 1 1/2 cups)**
2 garlic cloves – minced
5 springs of cilantro, leaves reserved for garnish***
3/4 teaspoon cumin
Course sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)
6 cups (1 qt) vegetable stock


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro sprigs, cumin, and a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until softened but not browned, 10 minutes. While the soup base is cooking, I used this time to peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Add the chipotle and the sweet potatoes and stir to combine. Add the vegetable stock to the pot and turn up the heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cilantro. Carefully puree the soup in a powerful blender. I’ve an immersion blender, which is honestly the best gadget investment I’ve made for the kitchen. I’ve had it for years and I can still get a delicious puree. If you want a really refined, smooth texture, you can pass the pureed soup through a fine-mesh strainer. Garnish each bowl with a few of the reserved cilantro leaves.


Notes in the Margins
Overall, the soup was pretty extraordinary. A bit spicy for my taste, as I chopped up a whole chipotle and added it with the adobe sauce for measurement. However, if you love spicy this is definitely for you. If you don’t, use 1/2 a pepper and some of the sauce it’s steeped in and the soup will be perfection. What I love about this soup is the consistency. You get the velvet, creaminess that is indicative of most cream (or white potato) based soups, but without the dairy, fat and wasteful calories. And no, I’m not counting calories as I had a huge rosemary roll slathered with Irish butter to accompany my small bowl of soup. Just executing some carb strat, guys.

*Gwyneth is truly high if she thinks that onions and garlic won’t brown on medium heat with two tablespoons of olive oil over a period of ten minutes. I added another 1/2 tbsp into the mix and kicked the heat down to medium/low after five minutes, and all was well with the world. You may want to go safe and add 3 tbsp. This soup is enough for four.

**I abhor red onions in a way that you can’t understand. Instead, I used a small yellow onion and it did the job just fine.

***If your hatred of coriander (translation: cilantro), it’s cool, I won’t judge. You can definitely use basil or sage. Think of the sort of herbs you’d add with squash, as you’re getting a similar sort of flavor play here.


7 thoughts on “sweet potato soup with coriander, chipotle, and a side of circus

  1. Felicia, I know you don’t know me but I often receive the same reaction and words from people. I’m the strong, funny, nothing pains me one, so I thought I’d extend a genuine hand. If you ever would like to email me for whatever, please feel free to do so. I know you are private, so it’s okay if you’d rather not. But I wanted to offer some solace for you. Of course, all correspondence is confidential. That goes without saying, but in this world of instant information, I thought I’d say it anyway. Regardless, my hand and heart genuinely go out to you and i’m only an email away at j.tappin@aol.com. I understand a lot of the same feelings and spend most weekends shutting off the world in order to stay sane. Best wishes to you no matter what, J


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