“I cannot believe you spent $60 for that tiny thing,” said my mom as she saw me unwrap my new shiny copper pot.
Her astonishment was quite understandable. Not for the cost of the pot per se, but because she knows me as a person who very unwillingly spends money on anything that is not strictly necessary to a specific purpose. This year, I bought only two pair of (cheap) pants, and that was because two other pairs I owned got ripped. I treasure what I own and try my best to replace stuff only when no other choice is given (or, in the case of pants, when there is a real risk of walking the streets with my butt exposed).
But when I decided to purchase the copper pot, I did not flinch one bit.
I stopped and thought about what made me decide to buy that pot with no doubt or question asked. Why was I always so wary about spending money, but could shell out relatively large amounts on occasional items that I absolutely fell in love with?
I loved the pot and I absolutely wanted it, as I thought that for me—a person who survives on and works with pretty photos—it could have added great value to my work. Plus, if treated right, it was something that I will still be using when I’m old and wrinkly, so it would have added value to my cooking because I will not need to replace it in the future.
Therefore, the copper pot was an investment. I realized that spending money was not the problem for me. What I was troubled with was not properly investing my money.
Once I rule out all that is unnecessary to my life and decide what I can comfortably live without (and that’s a lot of stuff, if you stop and think about it), I am left with a lot more disposable income that I can invest into something that creates value.
If I can invest into slightly better food, I am adding value to my health. If I can invest into higher-quality fabrics, they will likely resist wear and I’ll need to replace them less often. And then if there is something that I really, really like because for some reason I think it will add value to my everyday life and I can afford it, well, why not?
An investment is something that is done so you can get back twofold, threefold, tenfold, in time. Investment matters when we talk about material things, but every day we also invest our time, energy, and feelings. Oftentimes, we only spend money, time, energy, and feelings, and soon they’re gone like a gust of wind. But we spend those things every day, and it is up to you to do the switch from spending to investing, and stop and think about what really matters.
So this year, drop the spending, and learn to invest your resources. Meditate. Read. Walk. Bake. Stop worrying. Light a candle, play with your puppies. Invest at least 10 minutes of your time every day into something that you truly, genuinely like, and that makes you feel enriched. Then expand those 10 minutes to your whole life.
We put way too little thought into what we do every day. So stop wasting and spending money, time, and energy. Invest them. Create value.
Saffron, which, like a Midas hand, turns to gold everything it touches, makes me think about these very ideas.
Saffron is the most highly prized spice in this world we walk on: It sells for 12.000 to 14.000 euros per kilo (about $13 to $15), and, for a recipe that serves four, way less than one gram is more than enough. One single droplet of saffron-infused golden water is enough to dye a dish a pale yellow.
Enrico and I love saffron, and when Vallescuria, a group of young saffron farmers in Brianza, Northern Italy, asked me to help spread the word about their project, we jumped right in. Their project is truly remarkable: They believe in an organic, sustainable kind of agriculture, and the reason they chose saffron is that there is no way of industrializing its production.
Every flower must be handpicked and cared for by a human being. What better way to reconnect with the Earth, that mankind is so quick to forget about? They employ people with difficulties and who have trouble finding employment, and, together, they managed to collect their first crop, starting from nothing. I cannot find a better example of people who are putting the money into something that creates value and adds value to this planet.
Furthermore, Italy consumes way more saffron than it produces—it being a very traditional ingredient, especially all the way south in Sicily, and all the way north in Piedmont. Young agriculture enterprises like this, which require courage, strength of character, and fearlessness, ought to be encouraged. Do check out their shop!
Full credit goes to Enrico for this recipe. He has this penchant for soups—he can always find tasty combos using all sorts of spices and vegetables (this Lemon Chickpea Soup from last year was his idea, as well).
Sunchoke and Saffron Creamy Soup
½ a large leek, or a small one
Half a medium onion
1 large carrot, or 2 small ones
1½ lbs / 600 g sunchokes, well scrubbed and cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil (or 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon butter)
3 cups / 750 ml vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 pinch saffron threads, or 0,02 g (powdered is fine too)
- Trim and wash all the vegetables. If the sunchokes are perfectly cleaned, you can keep the skin on for extra fiber. I kept some of the skin, but peeled the most, to get the prettiest bright color.
- Roughly chop all the vegetables, and add to a pot with the olive oil (add the butter for a richer flavor). Stir-fry for a few minutes, until the alliums turn translucent and release their aroma. Add salt and pepper, and stir well.
- Add the stock, bring to a boil, then cook on low, half-covered, until all the vegetables are completely tender, about 40 minutes.
- In the meantime, soak the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of very hot water. It needs to stand for at least 20 minutes.
- When the vegetables are very tender, turn off the burner and add the saffron (you can reserve a few threads for garnishing). Stir well, and purée the soup with an immersion or regular blender.
- Serve in individual bowls and garnish with olive oil and/or cream.
- This soup freezes or reheats wonderfully.
Valentina is a 25-year-old Italian ex-graphic designer who, like many designers, got seduced by food photography. She runs Hortus Cuisine, a blog where she shares Italian, natural vegetarian recipes from the Italian countryside. She loves green tea, hates cilantro, and considers handmade pasta a form of art. Follow along on Instagram @HortusCuisine.