The sun was shining when I woke up on Tuesday. Considering I had spent the night before drinking Cotes-du-Rhone at The Hat on Jasper with a darling old friend, this was not necessarily a good thing.
But I was determined to have a productive day. So after a very early jaunt to the university to drop off my mom, I returned home with her car, determined to run errands, bake, and see friends. Well of course, I immediately got back into bed and so missed out on my chance to do the first two things. But as luck would have it, everything worked out beautifully.
When I got to my friend's house, the same girl who I'd been out with the night before, she had already pre-cooked the pumpkin we were planning on baking with. We drove back over to my house because my parents and I have got into the habit of keeping our kitchen quite well stocked with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and breads and it's easy to whip things up or change plans mid-prep. I think I take this quality of ours for granted at times, but it was much appreciated that afternoon.
Initially we planned to make pumpkin scones and then the pumpkin tureen from Mollie Katzen'sThe Enchanted Broccoli Forest, one of my all-time favourite cookbooks. Not just because it's vegetarian (which comes in handy when cooking for the university crowds I run with) and not just because of its charming hand-lettered and illustrated pages, but also because of the useful conversion charts and suggestions for how to adequately stock your pantry to be able to just open the book on a Tuesday afternoon and make almost anything from its contents. We decided that we couldn't wait the 2 hours the tureen required in the oven, and our other friend was on her way over with her lovely young daughter, so we decided on the recipe on the facing page, only with several modifications. Her Arizona Pumpkin Soup requires only 30 minutes of prep - minus the time my friend cooking the pumpkin earlier in the morning - and was easily adjusted for the ingredients I had sitting in my vegetable crisper. Instead of bell pepper I substituted in Granny Smith apple and sautéed that with the onion, garlic and spices. I also added some diced carrot and celery. In my opinion they are an easy addition to any soup and add nutrients, texture and flavour. The other modification was replacing toasted pumpkin seeds with a dollop of plain yogurt.
While we cooked, the three of us talked about our lives and all that has happened since we first knew each other. We spoke of love, adventure, learning, and pain. As we talked, my pumpkin friend fixed up a plate of assorted cheeses, crackers, and grapes. My other friend's daughter, Cai, gurgled delightfully on the kitchen floor, gnawing on slices of Granny Smith with nary a cry (except when I tried to hold her, of course). The soup simmered on the stove and we, the grownups I suppose, drank freshly ground Kickinghorse coffee and mused at how funny things turn out. I am amazed that with all that has changed, we seem to be exactly the same. One of us a wanderer, the other a dreamer, and me, yearning to be both but stuck in this pragmatic condition of needing to feed and take care of everyone.
Oh, it should also be said that I am a huge fan of blended soups. But with all the pulpy pumpkin and tender veggies and fruit, I didn't want to lose these elements completely. So I poured about two thirds of the simmering soup into the food processor to blend and then returned the mixture to the pot and let it all combine and simmer with a bit more salt.
The meal was hearty, healthful, and well received by all. I put on another pot of coffee and we relocated to the sunroom to lounge on the couches and chat, wishing the day would last just a bit longer. I had so much fun dancing around my sunny kitchen that afternoon. And my girlfriends had fun watching and helping. After our lunch we all felt so rejuvenated that we spent the remainder of the afternoon chatting, laughing, and watching my Cai explore the new surroundings. She learns very quickly. One day I will teach her how you can always pull together a quick soup when there is visiting to be done.