On seasons and soup

They say that for everything, there is a season. During this particular one, I’ve got a strange ongoing challenge that I don’t get to wield any control over. It’s humbling, too, because it’s something I’ve poked fun at many times, or labeled “boring” (because usually it is). This topic is – what else? – weather. Weather and seasons.

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Before I left the Left Coast, a friend commented that it was too bad I was leaving when I was. It was late October. I went blank for a moment, a little confused. “Why?” I asked. “Were you planning something fun that I’ll miss?” “No,” she said. “Just because it’s going to be so cold.”

Cold. The real four-letter word.

I was a little dismissive of that, at first, since, la-de-da, there’s more to life than weather. Like Sleater-Kinney’s glorious “No Cities to Love” says, “it’s not the cities, it’s the people we love.” I.e. not the weather, because weather is just weather. It’s different everywhere, sure, but it’s still the last-resort cocktail party topic of yore. Everywhere I’ve ever been in the U.S., they say that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Everywhere. (Except California, come to think of it.)

So: weather is weather. That’s true enough. And yet here I am, feeling weird that I remain unadjusted to the admittedly mild temps. Each evening I realize that there was a certain lack of shivering I came to take for granted in Orange County. Y’all have it good there – really good. Now, a fifty-degree day gives me goosebumps; it’s, dare I say, borderline embarrassing. It feels like a huge weakness, actually – say, if we had some kind of apocalypse and lost all internal heating or sources of flame.

(Not that we turn the heat on here, so maybe it’d actually be okay. Who knows.)

I find this interesting not in a “typical-girl-is-always-cold” way, because that is truly boring, but in a seasonal way. That is, as it turns out, I did miss the seasons of the Mid-Atlantic – the autumn reds and golds and the barren winters and the whipping breezes of spring. SoCal has its own versions of seasons, sure (June gloom, anyone?). But it’s fair to say that it’s not quite the same. Which can be an excellent thing for those who live there (beach in November!).

That said, when you give up seasonal variation, you also give up – however temporarily – a certain adaptability. You can prepare with layers. You can adopt a never-say-die mindset. But other than that, you just gotta hold out hope that one day, it will return and you will be tough again, no longer a sunshiny marshmallow subject to the whims of the Pacific, but a stone-cold badass Katniss Everdeen in the face of the harshest of winters.

In the meantime, during this season (see what I did there?), what else can you do to stave off the chill?

Taking the meat from the squash

The answer, of course, is make soup. And not just any soup: one that is an ode to the West Coast and a blogger I find endlessly inspiring. This is an adapted version of a butternut squash soup from this lovely Orangette post – fitting, too, since her writing here is so beautifully dedicated to San Francisco and Seattle.

My changes were slight: since I was out of apple cider, I omitted it and upped the stock content, then added coconut milk towards the end of the simmering process. The result was a thick, almost-bisque with a whipped consistency and beautiful harmony of spices.

Apple & butternut squash soup

adapted from Orangette

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ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
one 1.5-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 2-inch cubes
two small apples (I used Gala as in the original recipe), peeled, cored, & cut into 1-inch cubes
one medium onion, chopped
½ tsp each of cardamom, curry powder, and ginger
3 or 4 cups vegetable stock (can also use chicken, per the original)
½ cup coconut milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the squash, apples, and onion and stir to cover with oil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and become translucent. Then, stir in the spices, maybe adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion’s edges are browned and the squash has started to soften.

Add the stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then lower the temperature. Continue to simmer – uncovered or partially covered – for 25 to 35 minutes, so the liquid reduces. Add half of the coconut milk at the end of the reduction time.

Remove the soup from heat and gradually – two batches, probably – add to a food processor or blender. (Keep your batches small so to avoid a hot explosion.) Puree the mixture until it is smooth and silky, without chunks. It should be more of a whipped cream texture than an applesauce one.

Return the soup to the stockpot and add the rest of the coconut milk as you warm it back up. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately (and with roasted squash seeds if you can!).

serves 3-4

Photo credit in this post goes to my lovely sister Rachel!

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