Soup-Inspired Longing for Home
I miss my dad. This time of year my dad and I both really love cooking and planning our big family gatherings like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Now that I’m in Italy, we’ll have to plan our separate menus over the phone. Living in Italy is really wonderful, but I can’t lie–being away from my family during the holidays hurts.
One dish my dad and I love to prepare this time of year is squash soup. It was a tough decision in the past, because he and I were the only ones who really enjoyed it. Growing up, my brothers were so much younger (by six and nine years) that the flavor didn’t appeal to them. My mom wasn’t crazy about eating a sweet soup either. In her mind, soup should be savory–like the gumbo she grew up with in the south–and squash soup was a strange anomaly that rebelled against her philosophy and taste. Squash soup was right up there with tapioca, or fish eyes and glue, as she used to call it.
I’ve come to realize that cooking is not just an art for my dad, but also a form of love and service. Because he had a philosophy that we ate meals as a family and we ate what he put on the table, he usually preferred to make dishes that everyone would enjoy, not just one person. But when I came home from my first year of college and proclaimed that I was a vegan, holidays got a bit more complicated. Suddenly, he had a family member who couldn’t eat turkey or the other meats he usually prepared with such love. Suddenly he had to figure out how to serve just me.
Looking back, I think it’s partly why I love squash soup so much. It’s not just the creamy texture, the vibrant color of fall leaves, or the perfume and taste of autumn that lingers long after I’ve finished. There’s something more emotional behind my attachment. It’s about remembering being a young woman, trying out a new identity, even rebelling a bit against my father’s cuisine.
I remember my father’s face when I told him about my decision to be vegan, the look of disappointment and the sense of rejection. My dad is very emotionally connected to his food, and in a sense, rejecting his food was a way of rejecting him. We also used to be conspirators in the kitchen: I watched him cook, I listened to his stories about cooking, I ate everything he made with gusto. By choosing to be vegan, I’d abandoned him for my own path. I’d chosen to eat on my terms, not his.
I wasn’t sure what my dad would do after I told him; in truth, I was a bit scared. But he recovered after a while and announced that he would make a big bowl of squash soup to substitute for my portion of turkey. I distinctly remember breathing a sigh of relief, and eating my bowl of soup at Thanksgiving dinner with an extra helping of gratitude.
Now that I’m a bit older, I understand just what that squash soup meant. By making that soup, my dad gave me the gift of my independence by allowing me to experiment with a path that went against his. He let me be me, and instead of protesting, he made an individual dish so I would feel included. To him, that bowl of squash soup was an act of love.
Okay, now I need some kleenex.
This is a very simple version of that squash soup, fast and easy. There are ten million varieties of this soup and incredible things you could add (like this recipe with sage), but if you just have a few ingredients in the house or want to keep it simple (and more Italian, though this soup isn’t really Italian) than give this one a go. I’ll add variations at the bottom–feel free to add yours!
Simple Squash Soup
Servings: Three medium-sized soup bowls
- 1 lb (approx. 500 g) of peeled fall squash (weighed after peeling); delicata, pumpkin, acorn, and butternut squash are my favorites.
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 an onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 Tbs of olive oil, more if needed
- Vegetable broth or water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- G-Spot Ingredient: Freshly grated parmesan
Pre-cooking note: You can do this a couple ways. I recommend that you bake the squash first, until tender. Or you can simply peel and cut the squash raw and add it when suggested. I also put a pot of water or broth on to boil before I start up the onions so I can add hot water or broth instead of cold, which is better for cooking.
Saute the onions in olive oil until almost translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the potato and saute for a few minutes, then add the baked or raw squash and coat with oil and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add your hot water or broth, enough to cover the squash. While cooking, continue to add or cook down the broth until the soup is the flavor you like, and add salt to taste. I don’t like watery soup; I like mine a bit thicker. So I tend to drain out a lot of broth into a cup before blending, so I can add it back in if I like, or use what remains as a tasty broth for rice the next day.
Blend the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender. After blending, add a tablespoon of parmesan, some croutons if you like, a quick drizzle of olive oil, and some black pepper. Serve hot.
I am crazy for Thai food, so I highly recommend this recipe (and this blog) for Thai-spiced pumpkin soup: 101 Cookbooks’ Thai Curry Soup Recipe.
You can also try adding cinnamon and a bit of milk to the soup at the end (make sure you keep it really thick so adding milk doesn’t make it too watery). You can also add curry and coconut milk for a more Indian inspired version like this recipe at Allrecipes.com or this one at Epicurious.