Squash…it sounds kind of like the way I think it tastes. Like mushy mush, lingering on your tongue, trouble swallowing…
Let me put it this way: I didn’t grow up with squash.
None, at all.
At a certain point in my life the what you call ‘Italian summer squash’ or ‘zucchini’ found its way in the Dutch grocery stores and therefore on my plate, used mainly as an ingredient in Italian pasta dishes or French inspired vegetable stews.
And about 20 years ago I did receive a recipe from a co-worker for pumpkin soup. For me, a pumpkin was something you saw in American films around Halloween, cut with scary faces. Not to eat. I was never brave enough to make it.
No it wasn’t until I moved to the USA when I learned about this group of vegetables called ‘squash’.
I was intrigued by their beautiful shapes and colors, reminded me of ‘calabash’ (Gourds) a decorative plant we grew, for exactly that reason: as decoration. I was confused why they were displayed at the produce section in the supermarket, but then again, the cut flowers section was next to it.
However, I learned it was a menu item: you could actually eat these gourd-like things.
Oh, how often I picked one up, surprised by the heavy weight and wondering how you would eat a thing like this. I sometimes would look up a recipe, but never really felt too appealed to make it. I tried it in restaurants when it was served as a side dish and can’t say I was too impressed. It looked and tasted like baby food to me and I am kind of sensitive to smell and texture, so I decided that maybe squash wasn’t my thing.
The squash table in the produce aisle kept taunting me with their intriguing colors, and wonderful names: Delicata, Butternut, Spaghetti, Acorn. It wasn’t until one day two of my co-workers in the teacher lounge were eating squash for lunch. One had spaghetti squash (which to me looked like orange flubbery spaghetti, not sure if I am ready for that) and one was spooning a delicious smelling soup, made with winter squash. Soup!
I love soup! My family loves soup. We eat soup every Sunday as soon as the days get shorter. I would (finally!) make a soup with squash!
I did my research: I would choose a butternut squash soup as that squash sounded the most delicious to me. The shape was easy to recognize (in case they weren’t clearly labeled in the supermarket) and the rest of the recipe’s ingredients really spoke to me.
Off to work I went:
Step 1: Cut the squash lengthwise in half.
Hallelujah, that was easier said than done! Even with my huge sharp chef’s knife it was quite a task to cut the thing. But I got it. (Made me wonder how the first Settlers did this. Did they use axes? And how did they decided to even eat this stuff?)
Not as much seeds and stringy gooey substance as I had expected, but just like with the pumpkins we carve for Halloween, I don’t care for the smell or the texture. Yikes!
I endured it bravely: scooping out the strings and seeds, even separating them in hopes that butternut squash seeds would roast just like pumpkin seeds, because that was a thing l liked.
I noticed that the hole I scooped in one squash looked just like a heart: maybe this was a sign? Maybe I squash after all!
I had to generously brush the cut sides with melted butter. That sounds good! And sprinkle with pepper and salt. Put the things in the oven, easy enough and wait about 50 minutes.
It did start to smell quite nice. (but maybe that was just the butter?). About an hour later I used a fork to test the squash. I have to admit: it didn’t look half bad. I decided to give it another 10 minutes. I prepared the seeds by tossing them in olive oil and sprinkled some garlic salt on them, and when I took the squash out, I roasted the seeds.
In my big Dutch oven (in my case a Real Dutch oven, as in, from the Netherlands) I sautéed my onion, garlic and two granny smith apples. I scooped out the pumpkin flesh, still not convinced this would be good. My husband looked over my shoulder. I dared him: “should we try to taste a bit?” We did. It was okay but I couldn’t help wrinkle my nose. That texture!
I added the broth and water and brought it to a simmer. It really looked good and smelled good too. I did another taste test. It was okay, but still had that stringy, weird texture of squash.
After an hour on the stove, it needed to be blended. This was the moment! I was hoping the blender would take care of the texture thing. And indeed it did: instead of the choppy texture of food and the stringy texture of the squash I now had a smooth orange soup with the texture of…baby food. I so wanted this to be a huge hit, but I still didn’t believe in it.
Slowly I poured some cream in the soup. ‘Come on, Edith’, I hear myself thinking, ‘how bad can it be? It has apple, onion, and cream, all things you love, and, oh yeah, butternut squash.’
I don’t know why, but I had a hard time even trying a spoonful. I did though and it tasted…okay.
Still not a fan of the texture and the flavors on my tongue were vaguely familiar, but at the same time strange. I told myself to ‘woman up’ and get over it and take another bite. It wasn’t disgusting, not at all, but I can’t honestly say that it wowed me.
My son set the table and I serve the soup topped with the roasted seeds and some sunflower seeds to make it even prettier. The plates look great on the dark table set with cranberry colored placemats.
My husband and daughter dug right in. They liked it. One son pushed his spoon from one side to another, fished out the seeds and nibbled them up. The other son, to my surprise, took a bite and his face revealed that he wasn’t a fan. However, he finished his entire plate.
As for me: I gobbled up the soup, with the feeling I am eating warm applesauce or baby food, but I have to admit, it was slowly growing on me. I even took a second serving.
I did it: I made and ate squash soup! (But I know this recipe will be ‘squashed’ to the bottom of my pile and next week I will make a soup with veggies I know and I like).