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La Bonne Vie: When spring weather doesn’t cooperate, reminisce and warm up with French onion soup

It’s been a seesaw kind of week.

First, the weather cannot decide what it will do. From extremely wet conditions to sunny and calm with a return to downright chilly and damp and warm sun predicted, I am being dragged through uncertain days. I wear my new summer sandals and then I am back to socks and boots. On my morning walk, my winter jacket gets soaked by the steady rain so I switch to my hoodie, but by afternoon a cold wind is blowing and it’s back to my jacket.

Second, my daily work goes in spurts. I spend a 12-hour day working as hard as I can. And the next day, everything goes so smoothly that the day flies by like a dream.

And then, in the political realm, we have the usual ups and downs as elections come and go. There, I often waver between empathy and apathy

I’ve also been taking some time to look backward and forward as I make new plans. Tonight I turned on the soundtrack of my younger days, specifically my cowboy-boot-wearing, acoustic-guitar-playing, late-night-coffee-drinking, jukebox-listening, idealistic-and-independent-thinking younger self. The Eagles popped up. And then I knew I had a story.

It was in those younger times that I met a couple of fellows. One was a truck driving musician who played in bars, the other was a college soccer player and would-be potter. I spent time in their company.

The musician and I had late-night talks over coffee and cigarettes in the dim light of the farmhouse kitchen that he shared with a few others. We dreamed about a creative and simple life. The soccer player and I shared days on a road trip out west in his old Dodge Dart, talking about ceramics, the wheat harvest and the future.

Fast forward one year. I am studying in Barcelona, Spain, where the soccer player is taking art classes. We run around in the same group, have late night meetings, go dancing. I teach him how to knit. Meanwhile, the musician is back in Goshen, making his first guitar. I haven’t heard from him in awhile.

One night I discover that the phone in the booth below my apartment is broken and I can call long distance to whomever I want at no cost. I decide to call my musician friend. He Is surprised by my call, but happy. I soon receive a letter by his hand, and I write back letting him know that there is another fellow in the picture. His next letter quotes The Eagles: “I got a peaceful, easy feeling. And I know you won’t let me down. ‘Cause I’m already standing on the ground.”

To make a longer story short, that was enough to make me turn away from the soccer player and return and root myself in Goshen with the musician. No turning back!

Music is that way. It can frame and date our lives more than we know. I can definitely follow the soundtrack of my life, from Mahalia Jackson to Midnight Oil, from George Moustaki to Ozark Mountain Daredevils, from Bach to Stevie Ray Vaughn and so much more.

So put on some music, make yourself comfortable and start cooking. Here is a recipe that works for any of those ups and downs.


Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 10 cups)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups fruity white wine (Gewurztraminer or Riesling)
  • A little brandy
  • Slices of French or sourdough bread
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese


  1. Heat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onions and cook until soft and golden, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add broth and simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes.
  6. In four oven-safe bowls, put 1 teaspoon of brandy.
  7. Ladle soup into bowls. Cover with slices of bread and sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Bake in oven until cheese bubbles.
  9. Serve with a hearty red wine, a nice green salad and fruit for dessert.
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