It’s been hard to post recipes this week – I haven’t been able to get into it. I keep coming here and not knowing what to say. What is there to say about soup when there’s so much going on? I’ve found comfort in cooking during the after-school hours – our dinnertimes have been spent with the news on, the end of the day an opportunity for a more in-depth update on the threat of nuclear disaster, relief efforts hampered by snow and freezing weather and aftershocks, and near hourly re-estimates of the number of people missing and displaced. Every morning the alarm clicks on to the CBC and a grim update on a crippled nuclear plant, the dozen souls left to try to bring it under control, and the looming threat of nuclear disaster, followed (or led by, depending on the urgency of the situation that hour) by reports of violence in Libya. It seems impossible that the world is still humming along. But deadlines must still be met, appointments kept, laundry done. The house is still a mess and everyone’s gotta eat.
I know we’ve all been struggling to wrap our heads around the scope of the devastation, the suddenness of it all, and what can possibly be done to help. I’ve had plenty of calls and emails and tweets asking if I’m planning round 2 of Blog Aid. Excellent question. But it seems different now than it was a little over a year ago. The original book was for Haiti; I enlisted the financial support of Blurb and West Canadian Graphics, and the Canadian government stepped in to match donations. I don’t have all that backup this time. And though I could get moving and try to do it all again, I think there’s a perception that money isn’t going to make as much of an impact this time. People aren’t jumping for their wallets as eagerly as they were last year. (Not that I’m discouraging donations! I’m certainly not. It just seems to be the way it’s going.) Anyway. I’ve been involved in a similar project that is now getting underway, which you’ll surely hear about soon, and so there’s that. And I keep having ideas, but often they’re silly. I had one on Monday morning that made perfect sense to me, so long as it was bouncing around inside my head. When I talked about it it seemed silly, and so I haven’t done much to get it off the ground.
Also, it’s been a busy week. There was a bout of what may or may not have been food poisoning, but was miserable nonetheless. There have been deadlines and tests and grown-up stuff, and frustration that I still don’t know anywhere near as much about this world-wide-internet as I should by now. (Never have I been so annoyed at myself for not paying full attention in elementary school when they taught us basic programming in the computer lab full of Commodore 64s. I could have been a pioneer in all this!) I should at least know basic coding-if I did, my plan would have gone live by now. I was going to launch it Thursday. It’s Friday. And then part of me wonders if it really is silly or if anyone will even get it. And then I distract myself with emails and passed deadlines. It has all fallen out of focus.
All I know is this: it’s not helping any of us to be walking around feeling helpless, hopeless, and heavy-hearted. As someone somewhere once said: we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. I think besides donating what we can to the cause, we need to channel our efforts into helping ourselves and those around us. Doing little things to make life happier wherever we can can have an astonishing ripple effect. Just like plate tectonics, and the way subtle, often undetectable shifts in the earth can have tremendous effects on its surface.
OK, so now you know the direction I’m going here. I’m going to get to the part with the soup, and continue explaining my perhaps-not-so-brilliant-but-then-again-maybe idea tomorrow.
So I went to help Dan at one of his Kick the KD classes last night. He has a great bunch of UofC students he’s teaching how to cook. For free. What a guy. The class was great, even if they did make me feel ancient. (Not intentionally, of course. The fact that I made a Cliff Clavin joke and no one had a clue who I was talking about – Dan included – didn’t help.)
So H, one of the students in the class, told me about a roasted pepper and butternut squash soup she made – an adaptation of a recipe she found in a yoga magazine (always wondered who read those) – and it sounded too good not to make. Of all the butternut squash soups of my life, I don’t think I’ve made one yet with roasted red pepper. Bonus: it’s not only vegetarian (if you use vegetable stock, of course), but vegan, even. Look at me! Eating vegan! And not in the form of a sticky cinnamon bun! (Which I suppose aren’t really vegan anyway with all that butter.)
Creamy Red Pepper & Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from H, who adapted it from a yoga magazine.
a drizzle of canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs butternut squash peeled and but into half-inch chunks
1 roasted red pepper
1 L chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
pinch grated nutmeg
salted green pumpkin seeds, to sprinkle on top
Heat oil in pot for a few minutes, then add the onion and cook until softened (5-7 minutes). Add the squash and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until softened and getting mushy around the edges. Once it’s mushy-ish (H’s words), add the broth, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. About 15 minutes in, add your chopped roasted red pepper. Add spices and sugar before putting into the blender to blend up. Use a hand towel or J cloth and hold the lid down, and be wary of ‘liquefy’ setting. (Alternatively, use a hand-held immersion blender right in the pot.)
Serve topped with pumpkin seeds.