There were several points in her life when we thought Sammi might end up with a feeding tube — when she couldn’t gain weight after her first cardiac surgery; when she was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and an unhelpful parent told me that’s what happens eventually to all of those kids; and when eating became such a chore that we thought it might be better than the daily fight to feed her. Expecting it to happen on and off for nine years has made me at least peripherally aware of the vocabulary around tube-feeding — NG tubes go in the nose and down to the stomach, G tubes are surgically installed right into the stomach with a button that opens and closes to insert the tube. It’s one of the reasons why Sammi’s soft, white belly is my favorite place to kiss: I secretly always worried it would end up marred by that button.
But it didn’t. Instead, I became the MacGyver of cooking for every crazy restriction she had, self-imposed or medically required, and a combination of luck and persistence kept her from ever needing a tube. Foods came in and out of her life depending on how she felt and the diagnosis we were managing, but a few choice dishes survived nearly every restriction. The first food I learned to make that she really, really liked was a very simple chickpea soup I adapted from a recipe I found in Vegetarian Times magazine.
It has become such a staple that we call it The Soup or Sammi’s Chickpea Soup. From experience, I can tell you that, aside from the fact that it’s delicious and very cheap to make, it also works for all of the following dietary restrictions:
- Soft foods only
- GERD diet (no citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol)
- Dairy free
- Gluten free & Wheat free
- Soy free
- Egg free
- Nut free
That winter after her first cardiac surgery, with the threat of feeding tube constantly dangling above us, this soup was the savior. I could melt two tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil into her bowl, adding more than two hundred calories per serving. Sometimes, she ate only this soup and blueberries for days and days on end. I made several batches per week.
This soup made me feel powerful. It was a weapon I could use to fight the ribs I saw sticking out of her back and the shape of her skull so prominent under her thin downy hair. This soup let me do something about what was wrong. I fed it to her spoonful by spoonful until she could hold a spoon herself.
“Swallow, sunshine,” I told her. “It’s your soup!”
This soup is my hero.
Sammi’s Chickpea Soupadapted from this recipe by Vegetarian Times
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
½ cup roughly chopped greens — any greens will do (spinach, chard, parsley, kale)
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
Saute the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice. Cook uncovered over a medium-high flame for roughly fifteen minutes — until the chickpeas can be mashed against the side of the pot with a fork. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the consistency you like best. If your diet and palette allows, add the lemon juice and serve.