Because there's something comforting in the predictable
Today I made butternut squash soup, because last year I made butternut squash soup. And you know what? I take great comfort in that.
It never ceases to amaze me how culinarily ritualistic we are in this country. Every year, like clockwork, when the last day of September rolls into the first day of October, the stone fruits and tomatoes of summer give way to the weightier squashes and sprouts of winter, and an entire nation switches its focus from the frivolity of warm weather fare, to the serious business of food with the intent to sustain.
Of course it makes sense - eating seasonally is not only environmentally sound, it's also a hell of a lot tastier. Sure, you can probably find a pear at the grocery store in the middle of April, but where exactly that pear comes from, and whether or not it tastes anything remotely like it should, is a separate issue. Just because it's available, doesn't mean you should be eating it.
But eating seasonally is more than just a smarter and more responsible choice - it has become an anchor that roots us in ritual, helps us understand the passing of time and gives us something to look forward to with every year that passes.
I think it's fair to say that we come to grips with where we stand through what we eat, and at no time of the year is that more apparent than during its final months.
October, for example, gives way to our annual obsession with all things pumpkin. (And I truly mean obsession - I'm pretty sure our economy would collapse entirely, if pumpkin farmers woke up one morning and decided to diversify.) The tenth month of the year isn't official without the introduction of cinnamon and nutmeg, and an almost abrasive shift from a varied color palette to food that takes on an overwhelmingly orange hue.
November may be the penultimate month of year, but more significantly, it is a time for butternuts and delicatas, and cranberries baked into everything - only to be followed by December, which culminates in a symphony of root vegetables roasted to the point of sweet caramelization and dessert-like satisfaction.
We are creatures of habit, tradition and the comfort they provide, and in a country of culinary innovators, we find ourselves churning out the exact same dishes year after year, because of it. Summer is for innovation, and winter reminds us of where we come from. We round out the year with grandma's pies, mom's stews, dad's cocktails and 'so-and-so's world famous something-or-others,' that have been passed down for generations.
So this year, like last year, and the year before it, I give you butternut squash soup with ginger - because if it ain't broke...
Set your oven to 400*F.
Slice you squashes in half, scoop out the seeds, oil the cut sides, season them with salt and pepper and place them, cut side down on a lined baking sheet. Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft
Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large pot over low-medium heat. Cook the onions until soft and slightly caramelized about 15-20 minutes, then add the ginger, garlic, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook for a further minute.
Scoop the squash out of the skin and add it to the pot along with four cups of broth. Cook the soup for 15 minutes, until the squash has virtually 'melted' into the broth. At this point, you blend it. I use an immersion blender, but if you don't have one, carefully blend it in a standing blender in batches, then return the soup to the pot. If you feel the soup is too thick, and resembles baby food more than soup, add more stock.
Cook for a further 5-10 minutes and then season it with salt and pepper. Finally, stir in the butter, for a shiny, smooth and rich finish.
I like to top mine with some pumpkin and pomegranate seeds, and a swirl of coconut cream, because the combination of squash, brown sugar and coconut is absolutely divine! (And because everything's better with a little texture and a good garnish!)
As I sit here, eating my familiar and delicious squash soup, with Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, I can already taste the meals that lie ahead. I can taste them, because I've been having them for the past 33 years. And I can tell you right now, if the brussel sprouts with walnuts and maple syrup don't make it onto the table, there will be uproar.
Tradition, in our very modern little family, is not to be messed with.