On lentil soup and economizing.

We’ve been on a lentil soup kick lately. Red lentils, french lentils, any old lentil we can find for cheap in the bulk section of our grocery store, we’ve been buying it. There’s not a recipe that we’ve been using so much as a series of habits: sauté some amount of savory onion or shallot or leek in butter or oil, add lentils and other scattered nubs of carrots or leafy greens, add sea salt and water and heat until a soup develops that’s nourishing and warming and everything that wintertime food ought to be.

Last week I made one such batch of soup and served it to friends. I won’t say I wasn’t a bit shy at the prospect. Somewhere along the way, I’ve gotten the impression that food served to company should be better-than-usual fare. Even if you’re on a tight budget, heating up a packet of ramen noodles and inviting friends for dinner doesn’t seem like quite the right thing to do. Serving bowls of lentil soup seemed like the slightly more healthful equivalent. 

When you’re still relatively young and childless in this city—or maybe at any time—going out with friends can be almost astonishingly expensive. Cocktails at one bar run you a day’s food allowance and before the end of the night you can easily spend as much as you’ve allotted for the entire week’s groceries and then some. Inviting friends to your home for a pot of lentil soup seems terribly boring in the face of artisan cocktails and mustachioed waiters and oozing cheese platters. 

But when my husband and I realized that our plan to live frugally in 2013 had meant that we’d allowed January to slip by without spending substantial time with any our friends, we resolved to reassess. Our conclusion is utterly predictable: invite your friends over for lentil soup. The truth is that no matter how humble the ingredients, lentil soup is delicious and having friends to your apartment for any kind of meal is better than never having them over at all.

There are some lessons I’m not sure why I’ve taken so very long to learn.

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