Good morning from my porch in Paonia … there’s just a bit of a chill. Sit and face the sun, breathe in birdsong, and train whistle. Coffee.
I can imagine the winter squash ripening … not in my garden this year, but just like this photo from the 2012 patch. I have to say, growing squash gives me a deep, satisfying joy.
I think it’s because winter squash are keepers. Long term. That in the throes of life’s sometimes tumultuous style, here – HERE is a vegetable that lasts, on the counter or in the fridge, well into winter.. I know that plants I’ve grown in the past have called for coaxing, coddling, to help them acclimate to the soil and outdoor environment. But once they kick in, vines weaving all over the garden like rivers scrawling a new landscape, and the chubby squash appear, then turn that burnished tan, impermanence feels slightly less real. Like this glimpse from my years in Iowa, and a poem I wrote when I was a restless 21:
Bodies of Tradition
They shoulder the deluge of sun.
Pale tints of pink deepen on backs, sundress latticed,
sprawls of squash rows. They are Amish women,
with bodies of tradition, of ham and corn
and fruit pies.
They fan the earth with wide skirts like birds
squatting on nests.
The vines are reluctant to give up summer’s youth,
the women use small knives and place
squash sculptures in baskets.
They do not speak, or
perhaps I do not hear them, here,
from the steaming blacktop road.
Women, yet what do we share—
save for the dip into our bodies where life
emerges. They stand now, brush wrinkled cotton.
Their feet are covered with soil; they
are planted in the earth.
I cannot stay here long, a stranger
among people who remain unchanged.
The women lift their baskets, sliding the handles
into crooked elbows. The afternoons’ work
With hair pulled back like layers of onions
to tightly twisted buns,
I see their faces for the first time,
square, ruddy, plain featured.
One woman glances over a spill
of daisies in the ditch
at me. Her look is calm strength.
no uncertainties blanket the color in her eyes,
no pain or fear.
In 2015, I live on a little road called Peony Lane, just outside of town. Here and there, daisies in the ditch do nod and sway. But my favorite now is the huge trumpet vine. A Perennial. A little taste of permanent. With the fleeting whir of hummingbirds zooming about, swoop of wasps, or plunge of bees into the flowers’ glowing caverns – just to keep things lively.
I had a butternut squash, a can of coconut milk, and a friend to make lunch for the other day. Try this sweet and spicy soup. It’s a wonderful treat now, and even more so come winter.
Butternut Squash Coconut Curry Soup
Makes about 6 bowls
- 1 medium sized butternut squash
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2-3 tbsp. coconut oil
- 3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. dry mustard seed
- 1 heaping tbsp. red miso
- 3 tbsp. curry powder
- 1/2 – 2/3 tbsp. Sambal Oleek (or other spicy red chili paste)
- salt to taste
- minced chives to garnish
Preheat oven to 425. On a heavy baking sheet, drop a dollop or two of coconut oil. I prefer the fragrant, coconutty kind for a recipe such as this. Place baking sheet in the oven to heat and the oil to melt. Halve, clean and roast squash cut side down on the baking sheet about 45 minutes, until very tender. Cool. When cool enough to touch, scoop flesh from the squash skin, and puree in a food processor, adding a splash of water if necessary to blend.
In a large soup pot, place another dollop of coconut oil, and melt over medium heat. Add mustard seed and garlic, watching carefully so you catch the garlic just as it’s beginning to turn golden, and the mustard seeds start to pop. Pour in coconut milk. Add miso and pureed squash. Whisk to blend, stir in seasonings and taste. If you like the soup a bit thinner, stir in a little more water, or use a broth if you like. Lower heat to simmer, and stir occasionally as the flavors blend.
Spicy soup uplifts your outlook, don’t you think? Brightens the heart and warms the spirit.
Scatter with minced fresh chives to serve, and be prepared to smile. It’s a funny thing, choosing to be a chef – a study in impermanence if there ever was one – arranging delicious food on a plate, ladling joyful soup into a bowl – here one minute, gone the next. It’s one ongoing way to love each other deeply! Enjoy!
Whoops! Need more squash recipes? Try these from Pachamama’s archives.