Hello Mother, Hello DaughterPosted: March 12, 2012
“My mother burns the toast as surely as the sun rises each morning. In fact, I doubt that she’s ever made a round of toast in her life that failed to fill the kitchen with plumes of throat-catching smoke. I am nine now, and have never seen butter without black bits in it.” Nigel Slator, Toast
Becky (“The Mother”)
Though I’m now a truly good cook, I’m still not always an alert cook, which means that I tend to burn food. The smoke alarm, for many years, was basically our dinner bell.
When my second born Zeke was about five years old I handed him a perfectly golden piece of toast. He took the toast and a dinner knife and walked over to the trash can and started scraping it. “Zeke, Honey,” I said. “You don’t have to scrape your toast today. Mommy didn’t burn it!” To which he looked at me, eyes wide and said, “Oh. I thought we always had to whittle our toast.”
We recently visited at Jared and Rachel’s home in Texas, having driven a couple of days from Denver to get there. With my adorable grandbaby flashing us a dimpled smile from his highchair, Rach and I couldn’t wait to roll up our sleeves, get into the kitchen, and cook!
Rachel made an amazing butternut squash soup for our lunch, and while it was simmering, she popped a pan of homemade croutons in the oven, giving me one job: to guard them. Then she disappeared to rock Jackson and put him down for his nap.
Rachel (“The Daughter”)
As I settled into the rocking chair with my sleepy baby, I was going over our lunch menu in our head. The soup was simmering, the side dish was all chopped and ready for consumption, the croutons were toasting.
Oh no. I left the croutons on 450 degrees!
Sure, a high temperature is a quick way to crisp up the chunks of bread lightly coated in olive oil and Italian seasoning, but they need to be watched closely with this quick cook method. The problem: my mom, notorious for burning the bread, was in charge of them. I considered texting her from the nursery to remind her to keep an eye on them, but I’d only asked her to do that one thing…surely she hadn’t already forgotten. I told myself, “Surely, Mom will smell them browning before they get too crisp. I can live with a little char.”
Before I’d finished the argument in my head (“Should I, or should I not, text her?”) I heard a loud “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!!” coming from the kitchen, an all too familiar sound from my childhood. This was not a kitchen timer, not the microwave, not an annoying cell phone ring…this was none other than the smoke alarm.
Still holding Jackson, who had been on his way to dreamland but was alert and wide-eyed now, I rushed to the kitchen. Through a smoky cloud, I see Mom carrying a pan of black char to the back patio.
Like the “Saturday Night Live” skit, “Really!? with Seth and Amy,” all I could say was “Really, Mom? Really?!”
Shoulders scrunched, an innocent smile on her face, mom sheepishly replied, “Soooorrry. I think I may have slightly over-cooked the croutons.”
How can you not forgive a face like that? It’s a little bit childlike, mixed with a lot of ditzy blonde, sprinkled with a dash of Steve Urkel. Did I do thaaaat? I may not need this sweet innocent face as often as my mom has used it, but it’s a family skill I’m proud to have learned. It works wonders on my husband…especially after he looks at the credit card bill. Did I buy thaaat?
The soup was amazing even without the croutons, especially with a garnish of Rachel’s homemade Cowboy Caviar and tortilla chips.
What occurred in the kitchen that day is a small window into the dynamics of our Mother-Daughter relationship. I have what a brain doctor called “Inattentive ADD.” Which means I’m not particularly hyper, but I’m ditzy, easily distracted and over-optimistic about things like time, limits, and reality.
Rach has always enjoyed rules and order and minimalist décor with the same enthusiasm that I enjoy flying-by-the-seat-of-my pants, ignoring messes, and filling every space with vintage clutter. My daughter owns a kitchen timer and actually knows where it is and how to use it. This astounds me.
Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
This rustic soup is just enough sweet and just enough spice to warm you up on a chilly winter day or to eat around the fire pit on a cool summer night. You could even simmer it over the fire in a dutch oven and serve it up in over-sized mugs if you want a really rustic presentation and experience.
Drizzle of Olive Oil
½ red onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced or minced
½ cup baked sweet potato, mashed
2 cups of baked butternut squash, mashed
4 tbs white wine (divided)
2 cups veggie stock
1-3 cups water
Salt to taste
2 pieces of candied ginger (optional)
Garnish suggestions: croutons, tortilla chips, cilantro, sour cream (regular or non-dairy)
Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large pot (enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Sweat the onion and peppers in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt until soft, add garlic and sweat for two more minutes. Add two tablespoons of the white wine and stir. Add the veggie stock, 1 cup of water, squash, sweet potato, and candied ginger (leave whole). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer on med-low for 20 minutes. Remove ginger (unless you like the flavor a lot—I prefer small traces of it). Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer soup back to your pot and add more water if you would like a thinner consistency. Finish with remaining white wine and salt to taste. Garnish with your choice of toppings.
Notes: I happened to have leftover baked sweet potato and squash from making baby food when I first made this. As a quicker alternative, I’m sure you could chop up peeled sweet potato and squash and just simmer with the soup until they are soft all the way through. Though I think baking or roasting root vegetables brings out their best flavors.
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The Title: Hello Mother, Hello Daughter
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