The Ugly Ducking

Once upon a time lived an ugly duckling, who was always mocked by the other duckies. It had an unusual dark spot around its eyes and ugly feathers, and its quack never quite managed to hit the same cute pitch the way the other duckies did. This ugly duckling was also quite a bit larger than the others, and was made fun of for its size. It was always chosen last for duckie team sports, and never quite managed to fit in. And while the ugly duckling did its best to ignore the taunting and mockery, it vowed to one day prove the other duckies wrong. Each assault was motivation to do better. So one day the ugly duckling took off on its own, to learn the ways of the world and to one day prove that it was better than the other duckies.
The seasons came and went, and with time, the little ducklings had all grown up into dignified mallards. On this spring day, the mallards were gleefully splashing around in a pond, when suddenly a flock of swans came swooping in and overtaking the small pond. The mallards, now pushed up onto the banks, looked on with envy at the proud white curves of the swans’ graceful necks, and the delicate white feathers on their wings. One of the swans, with beautiful dark coloring around its eyes, approached the mallards and asked, “How do you like me now?”

I think that to a certain extent, we can all relate to the story of the ugly duckling – whether we were in fact the ugly duckling, or one of the bullying duckies. As children, I think we can be cruel in our teasing and taunting, and it takes quite a strong ugly duckling to survive that kind of verbal (or physical) bullying. I currently volunteer at a school in Harlem and I witness a similar sort of bullying all the time, not so different from what’s seen in Mean Girls, and I have to wonder where children get these ideas. At what point did children grow away from the love of Barney and Sesame Street, and learn to make fun of each other’s differences? Well, wherever that point is, I’d like to know. I’d like to rectify it. Why can’t that love extend beyond just preschool?


Minestrone Soup
Source: Ellie Krieger
Despite the rising temperatures, I am still clinging to soup weather – nothing beats a pot of soup after a long day in the office. It’s quick to prep, easy to cook, and simple to eat. With a bit of crusty bread, nothing helps me relax like a bowl of hearty soup. Just this week, I threw together a pot of minestrone for Steph and J, and dinner was ready in under an hour. And despite being meatless, this soup packs a lot of protein with the beans and super filling carbs from the pasta, and manages to retain tons of flavor. It’s also perfect for those Lenten Fridays.

2-3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
14 oz can crushed tomatoes [I rec Pomi]
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth [Better-than-Bouillon + water]
1 15 oz can cannellini bean, drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta, cooked al dente
salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high. Add chopped onion, then garlic and cook until translucent (do not allow burn). Sprinkle in dried oregano [herbs de provence works too], and “toast” until the herbs are fragrant. Add the chopped celery and carrots, and cook until softened. Add a sprinkle of salt to help the veggies release their liquid. To the pot add tomatoes and chicken broth, and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Reduce to low heat, and allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to develop. Add the beans and cook another 5-10 minutes until everything is tender. Adjust seasoning as needed with salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. At the last 1-2 minutes, add the cooked pasta and allow the pasta to soften a bit before serving in large bowls. Serve with bread, see below.


Roasted Garlic
Preheat toaster oven to 400*F. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb, and using a sharp knife – chop off the upper 1/3″ of the garlic head to expose the individual cloves. Place each garlic bulb on some aluminum foil and drizzle liberally with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Wrap each bulb with foil and place in oven. Bake at 400*F for 40-50 minutes (depends on how many you have in oven at once, and size of garlic head), or until it feels soft when touched. Once roasted, allow to cool completely before handling. The roasted garlic should have a nice buttery and spreadable consistency when it’s fully cooked. Spread on toasted bread and enjoy.


While I watch my students at play, I can’t help but wonder where my old elementary school classmates are, and how they are doing. Did some of them grow up to be beautiful swans, or did they stay as bullying mallards?


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