Reading may seem like a solitary pleasure, but we do not believe it is so. As we read, we intimately interact with writers, the worlds they create, and our own inner selves as well as the real world that surrounds us. Some of us are also blessed enough to have friends to share the experience with.

While discussing the idyllic village of Three Pines and the captivating characters author Louise Penny created in the Inspector Gamache books, we were aware of the sensory pleasure to be had in the meals described. Olivier’s Bistro, Gabri’s baking, and dinners at the Morrow’s can easily make us salivate while reading the books… Louise Penny's books, are a wonderful entrée into a sensual world, where each book is a season, capturing its mood and flavours, and contributing to the layers of meaning about the characters, who are marvellously revealed over the series.

At one point, a daydream of going through the series with a notebook in hand, writing down all these meals and later cooking them, took shape. This is our "notebook". We hope you enjoy this literary-culinary-sensory-philosophical journey.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Soup & Writing your Soul

By Amy

Within moments they were eating soup, baguette and watching Les Canadiens slaughter New York.“Too salty,” snapped Gilbert. “I told Carole not to put so much salt in the food.”
“Tastes fine to me.”
“Then you have no taste. Raised on poutine and burgers.”
Beauvoir looked at Dr. Gilbert expecting to see a smile. Instead his handsome face was sour, angry. Entitled, petulant, petty.The asshole was back. Or, more likely, had been there all along in deceptively easy company with the saint.

Dr. Gilbert is such an interesting character. He is an example of how intelligence, sensitivity, knowledge, understanding, and kindness aren’t always enough.
Is it just me? Or does everyone snack while they cook? One of my favorites - a spread of Greek yogurt + mustard, tomato & a sprinkle of basil, then toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes. Mmmmmm...

And Beauvoir knew then the man was a saint. He’d been touched by any number of medical men and women. All healers, all well intentioned, some kind, some rough. All made it clear that they wanted him to live, but none had made him feel that his life was precious, was worth saving, was worth something.Vincent Gilbert did. His healing went beyond the flesh, beyond the blood. Beyond the bones.

He is a brilliant, genius, sensitive, and caring physician. He’s a saint.

He’s also arrogant, curt, irritated, difficult to please, rude, and probably impossible to live with. He’s an asshole.

I think he’s a fascinating character because he reminds me of all those people who, with the best of intentions, trod over everyone around them. He reminds me of all the people who are idealists, but oftentimes too egotistical to live up to those ideals in everyday life. He is a caricature, an exaggeration, of what most of us are. What I am. Wishing to be kind, empathetic, patient, and understanding. But frequently messing up because our own feelings and impulses and needs get in the way.

He’s FINE. Ruth’s FINE, that is (Fucked up, Insegure, Neurotic, and Egotistical).

(I still think I should make some kind of artsy sign with “I’m FINE” printed on it.)

Vincent Gilbert grew. He changed. We only hear of the “before”  version and see the “new and improved” one. Even the new and improved version is, frequently, more of an asshole than a saint. The difference, I think, is that he knows it.

In the books, we are told that Gilbert wrote about his process, his journey, and his insight. It was, according to Gamache, an inspired and inspiring book: BEING. Louise Penny mentions (somewhere, I can’t find it) that the inspiration came partly from Jean Vanier’s book BECOMING HUMAN which is, in fact, an inspiring book.

This post is our 80th post. The 80th attempt to blog (literally) through literature and food and try to contemplate questions of the soul. The 80th time we share our process, our journey, and our insight. And there’s really nothing new about any of what we have written…

I have become increasingly aware that one of the magical aspects of reading is its humbling power. No matter how brilliant I think an idea is, someone else has already thought of it before I did, written it or phrased it more eloquently, or lived it more intensely.

Reading has long been an addiction. Interpreting, learning, and understanding my own life and my thoughts using the books I have read or am reading has also been something I’ve done ever since I can remember. Writing about what I read and trying to elaborate, cohesive posts about my scattered thoughts is what has been new.

I began thinking it would be a way to explore the food. I quickly realized it would be a way to explore myself. I thank those who encouraged us. I thank Libby for joining me. I thank all of you who read and follow… And I’d like to confess that I think we might be reaching a phase where there is less to say without being overly repetitive. I’m not yet saying goodbye, but I am announcing that I’m not quite sure how long we will keep the blog going. I has been, to me, a sort of public form of journaling and has kept me accountable (if only to myself) to organize my thoughts at least once a week.

I hope that I have been more successful than Dr. Vincent at applying what I have been learning. I know there is still much to contemplate and to learn… and so much room for growth.

I made a soup which I’m sure Vincent Gilbert would not have appreciated it. He seems to always be irritated at something anyway, right? This one was a tortellini soup with Italian sausage meatballs. It could be made as a vegetarian soup by simply removing the meatballs, as the author of the original recipe suggested. I made minor changes to adjust to ingredients I had at hand, but basically stuck to her recipe, so I’ll just add the link (Tortellini Soup).

I thought it was so good I actually made it a second time within the week.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a wonderful year in 2017. May we all build on our past experiences, learn from our mistakes, emphasize our strengths and qualities, grasp opportunities, forgive our errors, find meaning in our sorrows, embrace our differences, cherish our loved ones, and listen.

My main goal for 2017 is to try to be the best version of myself that I can, to forgive myself for all the things I am not and learn to unconditionally love all that I am. My goal is to listen and try to place myself in others' shoes and to resist the urge to only see and tell things from my perspective and understanding. My goal is to allow myself words, but also to be wary of them and aware of their power and my power when I wield them so I take care to use them wisely. My goal is to change the world by focusing on changing myself. To love, starting with those who are closest (and frequently hardest to love). To listen. And to be kind.

Also, to eat lots of soup this winter. I do love soup.


  1. Happy New Year.
    I thought the "asshole saint" was such a good description of the character. He goes away to help others but ignores his own son, who believes he is dead. Didn't Carole tell Marc his father was dead? I agree he probably would have been impossible to live with.
    Another insightful post.

    1. Wasn't that perfect?
      I know... He does sound impossible... But he has some redeeming moments where you think MAYBE... I think the cabin is the perfect place. Close enough for limited interaction. Haha!

  2. I wish you the very best for achieving all the goals you have set for 2017. Get them right and you will live a happy and tension free life. The soup recipe is delicious and mouth watering.