22 December 2013

Lentil Stew

Anyone who has been on the internet lately is probably aware of my recent live-tweeting of the Book of Genesis.  It was a pretty big deal: two random people retweeted one of my tweets, and another two people favourited one of my tweets.  Suffice to say, it made waves. 

One of the tweets (which was neither retweeted nor favourited, but deserved both) was about the time when Esau was tricked into giving up his birthright by a bowl of lentil soup:

“Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.  Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.  Then Jacob gave Esau bread an lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way.  Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
Gen. 25.29 - 25.34

There’s a lot going on in this passage.  First of all, Esau was always out in the fields.  You’d think that by this point he would have arranged with his mother to have dinner waiting for him or to pack a lunch with him for the day.  Second of all, that’s pretty cold, Jacob.  Your brother thinks he’s dying of starvation and you take advantage of it to get your hands on his birthright?  Esau is your twin brother!  At the same time, it would be really difficult to not take advantage of someone that stupid (Jacob does it again when his father is on his deathbed and steals Esau’s blessing).

Esau is an idiot for two reasons: 1) He obviously wasn’t starving to death.  He was just hungry.  We’ve all been there, Esau.  It feels like you’re starving, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have followed The Kitchn’s advice and popped a potato in the oven.  2) There’s no shame in trading your birthright for food if you are in fact starving to death, but two points here: a) Esau should have driven a harder bargain, like, “Okay Jacob, I will give up my birthright to you, but you have to cook for me for the rest of my life,” and b) lentil stew?  Come on. There’s no way I would trade anything for lentil soup, even if it was something that I didn’t even want in the first place because I would be so offended at the suggestion.

Does it look like I'm casually relaxing in a bowl of lentil stew? That's the look I was going for, but I have a feeling it
didn't quite work out. Whatever. Do you even know what photo editing software I'm using? The answer is none.
Will someone please give me PhotoShop for Christmas?

Now that I've laid the groundwork for why I am even thinking about lentil stew, let's get on with the post.  I will be the first to admit that I honestly did not know that lentils were for consumption until I was about 9 years-old, and not because I started eating them, but because that's probably the age I stopped using them for craft projects.  Even now I don't have a very good handle on them.  I know what they look like, but I don't know what they are, so I have always thrown them in the legume category, and likewise, I have no idea what "legume" even refers to.  They look like someone cut a bunch of small peas in half and then dyed them different colours.  Why wouldn't you just eat the peas?

The question you're all dying to hear the answer to is: Would I eat lentil stew?  The answer is no, absolutely not.  It looks like diarrhea.  Worse yet, it looks like it induces diarrhea.  Lentils are something that I hope to one day have in jars in my home, but they're not something I ever expect to eat myself.  Of course it should go without saying that another major strike against lentil stew is not just the lentils, which presumably are the primary ingredient, but this is, after all, a stew. 

I want so spend a bit more time talking about the stew aspect, because this post, after all, is supposed to be focused on lentil stew, not just lentils.  While I'm not entirely averse to hearty foods, the word "stew" is really off-putting, and seems to me to resist any stable ingredient list, so you can never really be certain what's in there.  Although in this case you can be certain that lentils are in there, which is the main indicator for me that I would not eat this.  I've actually had some pretty good experiences with stew in the past.  My mum used to make this dish called "hamburger soup," which was actually more of a stew, and when I was in Norway I was cornered into eating a mystery stew that came from a can.  It was pretty good.  But a general rule of thumb for me is to avoid stews.

Reading Genesis got me thinking about just how hard life must have been back then, even if God was your personal BFF and walked among you sometimes. Can you imagine?  Can you imagine how much work you would have to put in every single day just to survive, and at the end of the day, all you got was a bowl of lentil stew?  Not worth it. 
This picture really did not work out the way I thought it would. It was supposed to suggest that the pillar of smoke
that guided the Jews through the desert originated from a disgusting bowl of lentil stew, but now it doesn't look like
that at all. I repeat, someone please give me PhotoShop for Christmas. This picture, if anyone is interested, was taken
during my cross-American journey with my sister in 2008, when this pillar of smoke actually did guide us through
this desert-like region, that may or may not be Idaho.
And unfortunately for lentils, not much has changed--they're still not worth whatever effort you must first put in.  Because we used them so frequently in craft projects, I've always assumed that they're really cheap.  And when a food is that cheap, I assume that the only reason to eat it is out of desperation.  If it's cheap enough that you can easily afford to throw it away on children's art projects that will then actually be thrown away because no one likes those craft projects, it's probably a good idea to just throw them out in general.  I know what you're thinking: isn't rice the exact same?  Well, yes.  But one of the crucial differences between rice and lentils is that when you cook a pot of rice, it doesn't look like it's already made its way through the human digestive system.  Another obvious difference is that rice is not a legume, and even though I still don't know what a legume is, they sound really gross.*  I have just confirmed that lentils are in fact legumes and additionally, legumes are described as being "an edible pulse."  So if you can read that and continue to eat lentils in the future ... There is nothing I can say.  Edible pulse.

*I say this even though I think that peas and green beans are probably also legumes, and they are my top two favourite vegetables. 

What can we learn from Biblical hermeneutics? 
That for the wandering tribes of the Semetics,
Food was a question of necessity and never of therapeutics.
Or that no one in Genesis is as dumb and hairy as Esau

Who for a bowl of lentil stew his birthright he would disavow.

You couldn't pay me enough to eat a stew made of lentil 
 And I apologize if I'm being too judgemental,
But aren't they reserved just for children's crafts?
For these reasons and more, lentil stew gets the shaft.

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