December 2013


Last night I stayed up too late making delicious soup, something I have rarely done in a house on my own. I used mushrooms my beau had left at Thanksgiving, squash I had bought to celebrate the fall, a cookbook which was a wedding gift to me and my ex from two of our college friends. When I finished near 11:30 I ate a bowl, put the rest in the fridge to  wait for my children to arrive this evening. The pot itself was a gift from the day care families, bought with money they gave us teachers at the holidays a year or two ago, to make a smaller pot of soup once my son went off to college and my house housed only three, me, my younger son and daughter. It is well used and well loved, as I hoped it would be, even though the house is sometimes full to bursting, sometimes empty as can be.

I went to sleep too late, after midnight, wound up from shoveling and tea and holidays and family sadness.

I woke in the early morning to a dream that made me sob in my sleep, something I can’t remember ever happening. The soup was in the dream. It was at the center, just as lovely and delicious in the dream as it had been in real life, deep umber like the walls of my friend’s kitchen where we were this past Saturday night, taking a tour of the big old house she’s slowly remodeling with her love.

In the dream I was crying over the soup. It had been made by one lover for a man who was dying, who was some sort of counselor to me. In the dream I had just learned that my counselor, for whom I cared deeply, was dying, and the soup was some sort of a test. I was given a test on a piece of paper, which listed the ingredients and procedure and numbers and blanks which I was supposed to fill. Another and I were given the same test, maybe she was my daughter, I can’t remember now. The other took the test, filled it out quickly, sealed it in an envelope, turned it in and left. I stared at the test, feeling more and more confused, not having the least idea what to do, until I said in exasperation and sadness and outrage to the partner of my counselor, “None of this makes sense. I don’t know how to do it. The only thing I know is that if you love someone, you’ll never stop missing them” which broke the ice, broke his reserve, woke me up sobbing in return.

When I awoke, the dream was with me. Otherwise I was alone. In the dream, the one to whom I was referring was my father, whose images come back to me more vividly since my kids and beau and I watched a VHS tape from my childhood, in which he was a part, whose image on the tv remind me of how much he loved me and I loved him, something I’ve always known made visible again. When I wake, I think of my beau and his wife and children and the anniversary of her death which comes this Monday. I fall back to sleep two hours and when I wake I need to write this down.

Upon waking the second time, I think of my shoveling, last night, and what lies ahead now. I have set the alarm for seven so I can do it, wake up tired, think of my beau and son helping me on Saturday, about the cursing I was doing in the driveway last night as I stopped halfway down the driveway near 10:15, to save my energy for the sidewalk on the other side, which I did before finishing the soup, knowing I’d have to return early this morning to finish off the driveway and to remove any snow that fell in the night. This time, though, I was cursing my exhaustion, and laughing as much as crying, thinking it would in the end be all right. The first few times I found myself in this predicament, I cursed every man and boy in my life who had left me, my lot as a girl and woman, my weakness and my strength. I’ve come a long way to be able to curse and laugh and stop halfway down the driveway and to come into the house and make soup.

While I was finishing, my guy texted me good night. I talked with him while I made soup, after bailing on cleaning off the car. He reminded me he also cleaned off his driveway many years, and remembered aloud when he stopped, four or five years ago, as his wife was dying, and he was caring for her, physical care like bathing as well as all the rest, and realized if his back went out while he was shoveling, they were both in trouble.

I remembered making a similar decision with house cleaning when I was pregnant for my second son and running the day care full of little ones. At the end of the day, I was exhausted, working full time, caring for my own toddler and several others, and the Braxton Hicks contractions scared me into hiring a crew to help me clean, into ordering groceries delivered, rather than risk myself or my second son.

We do what we have to do to save ourselves and the ones we love. This morning I’m writing here out of compulsion, even though I should be shoveling. Off I go now, quick shower, tea and banana and shovel as much as I can before Liana and the families arrive. Good luck with your burdens, whatever they may be, and may your dreams remind you of what lies under the snow.

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Last Friday our good friend the four celebrated his last day care day with us. The last hour of our time together, I brought out the china tea set and we had tea, a small group, three twos, a three, a four, and a five, fanciest cups for the older three, fiesta ware for twos, not a dropped cup, and only a bit of spilled tea. It was dark and we were warm and when the boy left, I asked for a hug, and he agreed, both of us acknowledging that is what folks do when saying fond good-byes.

This weekend the snow arrived in earnest. My son and my beau were here to help me shovel out the heavy stuff, icy layer on top of heavy laden snow. This morning Liana and I braved the back yard with the youngest ones. I tamped down the icy layer with my big boots and the help of the five while Liana tended the baby in his slippery suit and the twos wondered what the heck had happened, ground slipping out from underfoot every few feet, backyard dishes buried in snow, nothing terribly familiar. Finally I was able to get the sleds. The five and a two and I tested a threesome down the tiny hill under the tree house. Several twos were just happy to have solid ground under their seated bums and turned their sleds into boats. The baby even lay on his back on a sled where I tried to feed him round two of his rejected bottle.

When the day ended, many families were late. The snow came down again, this time swift and all at once, fluffy, but so much so fast that traffic was stopped. I asked another single mom for advice on timing the shovel (to conserve my energy) and she recommended waiting til about 9, which I did, giving me time after the last kids left with families and Liana left on foot, choosing to walk home rather than dig out her car and sit in traffic. I explored the fridge, found kale, mushrooms, wondered what I could make in the world of soup, turned to The Moosewood Cookbook, wedding gift of twenty some years ago, remembering as I read how much Moosewood loved the mushroom.

One recipe struck me and called for just what I had in the cupboards and fridge, Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup, requiring two squash, which I had, one from Hadley, not far away, and a pile of mushrooms, which I didn’t want to go to waste, left her from Thanksgiving and still good. I roasted the squash while I ate dinner by candlelight, leftover soup, rice, and corn muffin spread with maple cream from the farmer’s market near my mom’s, while I shopped online for some more of the things on my list, then took it out to cool while I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled, off the porch, down the stairs, across the sidewalk, up the driveway (finishing only part) and around the house to clear the sidewalk on the other side to the back porch and door. Then it was time to come in from the cold, dry my boots and finish the soup, puree the squash, mix it with broth and orange juice, sauté onions in butter with curry spices, then mushrooms, mix it all together, and eat a bowl with slivered almonds, leaving the yogurt topping for bowl two to be eaten, if all goes as planned, with my kids tomorrow. Luckily, the two squash the recipe required produced twice as much pulp as needed for a single batch of soup, so I made a double, enough for the kids and I with bread and a salad, which I can make from the contents of the fridge, leaving time if the gal comes home, for lighting and decorating the tree.

Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try it. The first bowl made me very, very happy, surprisingly yummy for a soup I’ve never heard of or tasted before. Just as delicious as the apples we had for lunch and snack picked from one of our twos’ grandparents’ tree, with history and cared they shared with me via e-mail tonight. I do love good, homegrown, homemade food, and preparing and sharing it with good people, little and big.

Someone on the internet put the recipe into a word document, so I’ll copy and paste it here for you. Enjoy:)

Curried Squash & Mushroom Soup (Moosewood Cookbook)

 

2 medium butternut squash

2.5 cups water or vegetable broth

1 cup orange juice

2 Tbs. Butter

½ cup chopped onion

1 medium clove crushed garlic

6 oz. Mushrooms, sliced

½ tsp. Ground cumin

½ tsp. Ground coriander

½ tsp. Ground cinnamon

¾ tsp. Ground ginger

¼ tsp dry mustard

1 ¼ tsp. Salt

a few dashes cayenne pepper

juice of one fresh lemon (just before serving)

sour cream or yogurt(topping)

toasted chopped almonds (topping)

 

Split the squash lengthwise, remove seeds and bake face-down in a 375 degree oven on an oiled tray 30-45 minutes or until soft.  Cool and scoop out the insides.  About 3 cups worth of the insides is required.  Put in blender with water or stock and puree until smooth.  Combine in a kettle or saucepan with the orange juice.

 

Heat the butter in a skillet and add the garlic, onion, salt and spices.  Saute until the onion is soft.  (May need some water if it sticks.)  Next, add mushrooms, cover, and cook 10 minutes.

 

Add the sauté to the squash, scraping the skillet well to salvage all the good stuff.  Heat everything together very gently.  Taste to correct seasoning.  You may want more cayenne or salt.  And, since this is a fairly sweet soup, you may want to spruce it up with some fresh lemon juice just prior to serving.

 

Serve topped with yogurt and chopped, toasted almonds.  Makes 4-5 servings and takes one and one-half hours to prepare.  Flavor continues to mature with additional simmering.