By Isa Covo

A year ago, I was sure that our lives, for the most part anyway, would have returned to normal. That COVID would have largely been contained, that on Valentine’s Day we would have been hugging all present, even strangers. Well, it did not happen. Even though the situation has improved there are still many constraints, and they won’t end until enough people get vaccinated. Those who claim that the mandates infringe upon their liberties – well, what about our liberties and the liberties of those who died? 

This reminds me of a saying in Ladino: A group of people went on a boat ride. Suddenly someone notices that one of the travelers has gotten hold of a drill and has proceeded to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat; the rest of the riders try to stop him, but he protests, saying “I drill a hole in my spot. (A mi lugar buracu, in the original.)” That is exactly the attitude of the antivaxxers.

Both trials of the vigilantes who killed Ahmaud Arbery ended as they should. Those three men were out on a hunt and the juries knew that to convict them was the right decision. Can you imagine having armed men running around killing someone, in this case an unarmed young man, in shorts and shoeless, at a whim because they found that individual suspicious? If they did, they should have called the police. No, they just found it justifiable to lynch him. Those men deserve what they got, and I hope their names will be forgotten—I refuse to mention them—but that Ahmaud’s will always be remembered

Do you think we will face a new Cold War? I visited Russia a few years ago, and things seemed to be quite normal, although there were some complaints about the government. I could not have ever imagined that anything like this would have occurred.

And then there is inflation. Take heart, I remember a couple of other periods of inflation, and we made it through. 

Spring will be here soon. Let us get ready to enjoy it.

When I was served this soup, I was told that the recipe goes at least as far back as ancient Rome; I could not verify this, but the ingredients (except perhaps the vinegar) and the use of spices seem to point to ancient world cookery, as well as the lack of tomatoes since the latter come from the New World. Whatever its history, it tastes very good. For those who like more robust flavors, increase the spices to your taste. Because it is a family kitchen rustic recipe you may, except for the basic beans and grains, as well as the olive oil, substitute the rest of the ingredients to your taste. Yet, as it is of Mediterranean origin, the flavors should reflect that provenance.

Farro, Cranberry Bean and Chickpea Soup


  • 1/3 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup dried borlotti, or cranberry beans
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup leek, white part and some of the light green, chopped
  • 1 or 2 small dried whole red chili peppers 4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large sprig of fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dry
  • 1 large sprig of sage or 1/2 tsp. powdered
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Toasted baguette slices


  1. Rinse well and soak the beans, chickpeas, and farro overnight in separate containers.
  2. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Rinse the peppers but leave them whole. 
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat, and when it starts shimmering, add the chopped onion, the garlic, chilies and the bay leaf. Stir the ingredients to coat them with the oil and cook until the onions begin to soften and become translucent. Add the carrots and celery and continue cooking for another minute. Add the beans, chickpeas and farro.
  4. Pour the broth into the saucepan, stir, add the herbs and the spices, and bring to a boil. The liquid should cover the ingredients; add water or more broth if necessary. Cover the pot and lower the heat so the liquid is simmering. Cook about 2 ½ hours, stirring the soup occasionally so that it does not stick to the saucepan. If the mixture looks dry, add some water or broth. When ready, the grain and beans should be very soft, but not mushy, and the soup should be thick. Season with salt to taste.
  5. Just before serving, remove and discard the bay leaf and chilies, and, if using fresh, the oregano and the sage. Stir in the chopped parsley. 
  6. Serve in bowls and pass the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and toasts at the table.

Note: Although I do like balsamic vinegar, I find that it overwhelms the other flavors.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings 

Photo by Isa Covo.

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