More free time?

Triple mushroom soup.

Triple mushroom soup.

Lori / Legion-Media
The fast is supposed to give believers the freedom to focus on their spiritual lives. Does it work?

So, if the practice of fasting is about deprivation in the pursuit of spirituality, how is that supposed to work, exactly?

From what I can gather, the limitation of food options is supposed to free you from the burden of deciding what to eat and preparing meals. You only have a few options; you know what they are; so you have much more time to spend praying or helping others or otherwise serving God.

Maybe the inhabitants of ancient Rus didn’t mind eating buckwheat every day for six weeks. Maybe they didn’t have a choice. But in today’s world, where choices abound for every conceivable type of diet, the Lenten fasting rules sometimes have the opposite effect. They can be an excuse to try a new restaurant or buy a new cookbook. The first year I observed Great Lent, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to plan fast-friendly meals.

Over time, I’ve gotten smarter. I know which international cuisines require the least adaptation to be fast-friendly. I am much more adept at using internet resources and every other year or so I buy a new vegan cookbook. The fasting rules don’t completely match up with a vegan diet, but they are close enough that most vegan recipes work.

My book for this year is Vegan Without Borders, by Robin Robertson. One of my favorite things about this book is how Robertson manages to find tasty vegan options even in the “meat-and-potatoes” cuisines of northern and Eastern Europe – of which Russia is a part.

Although I personally favor the Mediterranean sections of the book, it’s good to know that it’s possible to eat fast-friendly food even if your tastes tend to the protein and starch variety. Much thanks to Robin Robertson for giving us permission to reprint her recipe for Triple Mushroom Soup with Dill (honestly, could there be anything more Russian?)

Triple mushroom soup with dill

(Courtesy of Robin RobertsonVegan Without Borders”)


1 Tbsp olive oil or ¼ cup water; 1 large yellow onion, chopped; 1 carrot, peeled and minced; 1 celery rib, minced; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 8 oz white mushrooms, thinly sliced; 4 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped; 3 Tbsp dry white wine; 1 Tbsp soy sauce; ½ tsp porcini powder; 5 cups mushroom or vegetable broth; salt and freshly ground balck pepper; 1 ½ cup cooked white beans, or 1 15.5 oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed; 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 Tbsp dry dill; ½ cup vegan sour cream

Heat the oil or water in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and both kinds of mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes longer to soften. Stir in the wine, soy sauce and porcini powder, then add the broth, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil,then decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the dill. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and add a spoonful of sour cream to each serving.

A couple of notes here – I’m assuming that wine in a recipe is ok because the alcohol is cooked away and its just for flavor. Also, I’m fairly certain I can’t buy porcini powder in Moscow, but the soup is tasty without it. And finally, I didn’t use the vegan sour cream because I think it goes against the spirit of the fast to use fake dairy products.


Read more: Great Lent: Beginning the journey>>>

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