Thanksgiving and Soup

Thanksgiving and Soup November 16, 2017


It’s almost Thanksgiving, a thought which surprised me yesterday as I was bashing my way through the laundry. It’s been such a warm fall, and I’ve been balancing between so many and various high-wire acts, including being ticked off about the Christmas music in stores, that I haven’t considered that important and much needed feast, the one where you just get to have dinner and be thankful.

Don’t you think, though, that Thanksgiving would be a lot more popular in this day and age if it could be called Thankstaking? And that instead of having to give thanks, which probably requires some effort on my part, I could take, or better yet just receive piles of thanks not only for all the work I do, but also for who I am? I think that would be much more in keeping with the times. Although, now that I say it out loud, I can see why it’s not a thing.

So, in the spirit of generous thankfulness, I just want to offer up this brilliant soup that either fate or the Holy Spirit vouchsafed to me on Tuesday, and which, if you are looking to deconstruct your thanksgiving dinner, trying to pull yourself out of the morass of cooking the same thing Every Single Time, I’m sure will make your life the sunshine field of rainbow butter cup unicorns that you deserve.

Acorn Squash Soup
Let me just begin by saying that this Soup is very much already a thing. I mean, I’ve made it every year because everyone makes it. This is not the inventing of a new and amazing Soup. What happened, though, is that I inadvertently, by following my heart, elevated it to a level of lyrical sumptuousness heretofore unexperienced in the realm of this particular Soup. It was so amazing, in fact, that I am convinced it would be worthy of any elegant and upscale thanksgiving dinner.

What it recalls, really, is the pie that normally appears at the end–the pumpkin one. It has the deep rich, creamy, emulsified intensity of what you expect in a dessert. But if you, like me, are already too full by that point to even face the pie, this gives you a leg up. You get it First, and then who even cares about the pie…I mean, don’t answer that. We all care about the pie, but still, nothing is lost in bookending your life with creamy pumpkin flavors both savory and sweet.

So here’s what I did. I very finely diced an onion and sweated it at a low heat for a long while in butter. Didn’t bother with the oil, because there was no need. Meanwhile I split two acorn squashes wide open, scooped out their innards and baked them face down on a baking sheet. I like an acorn squash better than a pumpkin, and much better than a sweet potato for all kinds of reasons–the color, the texture, for its not being too sweet, and for the flavor. It indicates pumpkin in a spiritual way, without overpowering the whole room. When the onion was translucent–which requires patience, you don’t want to just slam it with heat, it needs to be gently brought along–I added one single pork bullion cube, about which I also just need to have a word.

It used to be, in my misspent youth, that I was constantly making stock. I saved up every single little bone, burying them all in my freezer, and once a month I would get out my massive pot and stuff it full of the picked over frozen carcasses, various vegetables, and an ocean of cold water. It would sit and simmer all day, and sometimes through the night, and then because I didn’t ever want to strain it, I would bring it back up to a boil two or three more times, and then finally, overwrought and miserable, finally cope with it, refilling my freezer with a lot of one cup plastic containers full of golden liquid, only to begin, what felt like only a week later, the whole process over again.

At some point along the way, probably on one of those gray afternoons where you have a baby strapped to your back, a toddler lying on the floor whining, two kids who should have still been doing math but were laboriously sprinkling lego in elegant designs all over the floor, that I stood gazing at all the bones in the freezer, the dead bones of my expectations and understanding of myself, and then hauled them out and shoved them into a big stretchy garbage bag, flinging them to the side of the road. Then I traipsed lightheartedly to Aldi to buy an entire grocery cart full of frozen pizza, and really never looked back.

Now what happens is that Matt goes to the store on Friday and buys those gorgeous little yellow rectangular packets, whereby some alchemist takes all the flavor of the beast and condenses it into that solitary magical square that you just pop into whatever pot you happen to be going on with.

But here is where you must attend carefully. On the whole, you want beef or chicken. Those are the hearty substances of daily life. But you also want to go a little off the path and buy up a quantity of the pork ones. And then to literally, and I do mean it in the old fashioned way, to every single pot that you shove on the stove add One, but Only One pork cube. The depth, the richness wrought by one pork cube, married together with the chicken or beef or whatever, is the most glorious thing.

So anyway, I had sweated my onion and I had my two squash roasting, and so I added my single pork cube and a can of coconut milk and let those two and the opinion join themselves irrevocably together. I also dug around a found a nice ham bone resting quietly at the back of the fridge. That went in too. And then, finally, the scooped out golden squash. Only then did I add some water to top up and make it into an actual Soup. A little salt, an abundant tablespoon of curry powder, a little folding of the hands in prayer, and let me tell you, poverty did not dare creep up anywhere into my kitchen.

I turned away and left it, simmering gently, to go on about my life, and then, sometime late morning, Matt came in and removed the ham bone and blended the divine mixture together with the immersion blender.

And what I want to say is, it was so much more creamy, so much more subtly rich and pumpkiny, gently sweet with a perfectly balanced kick of heat from the curry, that I wanted to weep, but I restrained myself. I just had another bowl.

The great trouble was that there was not enough. I should have quadrupled it, because there was not even one speck left over. The tragedy of this was almost too much for me to bear. I was only able to console myself by purposing to do it again next week, for the feast itself. This is only a trial run, I told myself, it will be ok. Somehow, someday, it will all be ok.

Pip pip.

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