I was walking towards the bus stop after a day spent at the Sydney Aquarium earlier this year, when I witnessed a touching, familiar scene. On the street, right outside a McDonald’s, was a homeless man seated indian-style on a blanket, embracing his dog. A chestnut brown and white pitbull wearing a thick red collar, the dog rested his front paws on the man’s shoulders, gently licking his face as if to comfort him.
It was a familiar gesture to me, one of pure adoration that I know very well. If you’ve been following our blog, then you’ll know that Ren and I have two pugs, Henry and Mona, whom we adore like children. Ever since he was a puppy, Henry has licked my face like that for at least ten minutes every night before going to sleep. Watching that pitbull lovingly lick his owner’s face reminded me of my Henry boy and our nightly ritual, and it warmed my heart.
Groping my pockets for any loose change, I have never been so disappointed in my life for not having anything to give to a homeless person. Walking past them, then sitting at the stop waiting for the bus, I kept looking back, repeatedly palming my pockets for any coin, even one, that I may have missed. Knowing that I had a few minutes before the bus would come, I considered running into the McDonald’s to buy them a couple of burgers, but decided against it, telling myself at the time that I couldn’t afford to miss the bus and be late to my sister’s wedding.
Of course, in retrospect, that was just a bullshit reason to make me feel better. The truth was, we were traveling on a budget, and I just couldn’t bring myself to part with a few dollars for the benefit of a man and his dog whom I didn’t know, regardless of how touched they made me feel.
Today, several months later, I still remember that scene vividly. I wish that I could have parted with those few dollars to help that homeless man and his dog. If I did, then I’d probably be reflecting back on that day with warmth and pride, instead of regret.
Looking at this comforting plate of sandwich and soup, I’m again reminded of that chilly Sydney afternoon, watching that poor, hungry pitbull lick his homeless owner’s face, and me feeling bad and wanting to help, but hopping on that bus and doing nothing in the end.
I wish that I could have shared this with them.
Delicious panini with Ren’s homemade hummus, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Swiss cheese, on a beautiful ciabatta courtesy of her cousin Brooke.
I adore Ren’s squash soup, and to be able to slurp it straight from a cup, without any utensils, is comfort food at its most heartwarming.
- 2 cups roasted squash*, chopped
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 cups home-made or good quality chicken stock
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- Sea salt and white pepper, to taste
*To roast squash: Place squash, cut side down, on baking sheets and roast in preheated 400 F oven for 45 minutes, or until flesh is soft. Scoop out flesh when roasted.
- Caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms**
- Hummus, store-bought or home-made. CLICK HERE for recipe.
- Ciabatta or baguette slices
- Mozarella or Swiss cheese slices
**To caramelize onions: Slowly cook several sliced onions in a little olive oil until browned (about 40 mins-1 hour). Add in shiitake mushrooms halfway through cooking.
- In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil. Saute onion, while stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic, curry powder, and cumin, then cook for one minute.
- Add in squash, season with sea salt and white pepper, then stir for a few minutes for flavors to meld. Stir in stock and coconut cream, then bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat.
- Transfer to blender and puree mixture until smooth. Return to heat and simmer a few more minutes, or until soup has thickened to desired consistency.
- To assemble panini, start with a slice of cheese, followed by a thin layer of hummus and onion/mushroom mixture, then another slice of cheese.
- Grill on panini maker. If unavailable, heat non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Spray sandwich with cooking spray, or brush with olive oil or melted butter.
- Set sandwich on skillet and weigh it down with something heavy, like a cast iron skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until toasted and golden.
DID YOU KNOW?
That in 1980s Italy, the term paninaro was coined to describe Italian teenagers who regularly ate at sandwich bars and fast food restaurants, for the purpose of meeting other like-minded teenagers? Paninari were depicted as being vain and fashion-obsessed, delighting in showing off branded 80s status symbols like Timberland shoes, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and Armani clothing.
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