We're in the thick of it now. High Cooking Season. We've seemingly conquered Thanksgiving and its tribute to the pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation. Our "Freedom From Want" has ostensibly morphed into a perverse portrayal of plenty. Grace has given way to a cornucopia of casseroles, cranberries and cornbread; a panoply of pumpkin pies, of poultry, of potatoes and parsnips purée. We are, with most certainty, "persons of Pinterest" for the next month, as persimmon puddings deliver us unto peppermint macarons and panettone.
Before this parade of culinary showmanship, this proliferation of possessive pronouns and abuse of the word "famous" (always a red flag), there were simpler times. Folks didn't need to watch forty hours of Food Network to feel like they could feed their families. Maybe we could all take a page out of our forefathers repertoire and take it down a notch. After all, they didn't even have butter at the First Thanksgiving. They didn't have butter! Maybe we could nourish ourselves without need of the next big ninety-day fitness challenge after the New Year ?
Music is an inspiration in my kitchen. It's why I write this blog. From the beginning, one of the constants in my kitchen was the music of Sam Cooke. Our Forefather of Soul. There is no other catalog of music that so consistently keeps my mood free and my feet moving. His music soothes my soul. Maybe it's his roots in gospel music, or his undying charisma, but I don't know of any other artist that spans generations with song like he does. Just try putting on Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 and see what it does to the room. You won't be thinking about the stress of pressing three dozen cookies or if the sweet potato soufflé is enough to feed fifteen. You'll just go with the flow.
We can at least give it a go, right? This holiday season, I propose we honor those that came before us by scaling back and soothing our souls; by simmering soups and sharing our stories. We have our freedom from want, but we still want our freedom. Keep your feet moving and don't sweat it if you can't show up with enough venison to feed well over a hundred people. I know for a fact that we all have something to bring to the table.
Here is my effort at doing just that: Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Turmeric
To make this simple soup, halve one acorn squash, remove seeds and roast in oven until tender, sweat one half diced onion and add the slices of one peeled and cored Granny Smith apple and one clove of garlic just long enough to soften. Purée in blender with warm vegetable stock and season to taste with salt, pepper, turmeric and cayenne. Swirl with olive oil, and garnish with cranberry sauce and toasted walnuts. This is a vegan dish.
Enjoy the thick of it. Happy Holidays!
Sam Cooke - January 22, 1931 - December 11, 1964
Read more about the life and legacy of Sam Cooke in this article from the WSJ published just yesterday.