Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kit's Curried Pumpkin Soup

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a little different for me. Like a lot of other unfortunate people in America, I'm falling prey to the new practice of "Black Friday actually starts on Thursday", and so I'm missing out on dinner, hanging out with my family, and generally having a stress free holiday. Honestly, I'm pretty bummed out about it.

But I didn't want the holiday to pass by without doing something for it for the blog, and since I didn't have a ton of time to devote to cooking today, this recipe I borrowed from the same best friend who brought you the brisket we made for Rosh Hashanah and the chicken soup we made just because turned out to be the perfect solution to getting some Thanksgiving in my day, even if I'm missing out on turkey and stuffing.

There are probably at least a few people wondering why I picked Kit to host a Thanksgiving post, especially while working with a recipe that isn't exactly period. Curry didn't become a popular spice among non Indian Americans until the 1960's and 70's, so any variation on pumpkin soup that Kit's family would have enjoyed would have used other spices. I considered fiddling with it to make a more authentic 1930's soup, but considering we're all pretty big fans of Indian food, I thought we'd really be missing out on an awesome recipe if I messed with it too much.

Aside from the fact that soups were certainly popular during the Great Depression, as they're an easy, relatively inexpensive way to feed lots of people that can help recycle other food scraps that might otherwise go to waste, Kit is the only character who actually features Thanksgiving as a plot point in her stories. Kit Learns a Lesson takes place several days before Thanksgiving, and ends on Thanksgiving Day. In it, Kit learns that her family's financial situation is much more dire than she originally thought it was, and her father probably won't be getting a new job in a very long time. With a little creativity and help from her friends, she still finds ways to help out and learns what she really has to be thankful for. It's a great story, and is probably my favorite part of her series.

The lighting washed it out, but I promise this is the page with Kit's Thanksgiving Day edition of her newspaper.

Thanksgiving is a holiday most people know the basic facts about, but there are some popular misconceptions that should probably be cleared up. A lot of people are under the impression that Thanksgiving wasn't celebrated nationally at all until 1863, when a woman wrote to President Lincoln insisting that the feast between the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony and the local Native Americans be celebrated with a federal holiday. This is totally oversimplifying the facts, because Thanksgiving was actually celebrated long before 1863.
Several presidents before him - including George Washington and John Adams, the first and second president respectively - had declared a national day of thanksgiving, and the Continental Congress had done so before the United States had been officially separated from Great Britain. There's even well documented evidence that days of thanksgiving - which could include feasting - were held in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, years before the "first" thanksgiving was held in 1621.

The reason Lincoln is credited as creating the holiday we're celebrating today is because up until 1863, the holiday existed on a very informal basis, and could be held at pretty much whatever time of the year the president or an individual family wanted it to be. Lincoln's declaring it a federal holiday gave it a fixed day, and allowed people and businesses to take a day off from work to give thanks together.

Since Addy represents the period that launched the holiday we all know and love, she tagged along to help Kit out with the soup.

Don't worry, she's going to be featured with her own special holiday post later in December!

There's only one way to start off with pumpkin soup, and that's with - you guessed it - pumpkins! The original recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but my mom had some sugar pumpkins she got on sale, so we decided to roast our own instead of using it from the can.

It's pretty simple to do. Just slice up the pumpkins, clean out the pulp and seeds, and eyeball them until they look done. They should take about as long as a butternut squash.

A couple people acted surprised when I said we were taking whole pumpkins and chopping them up instead of just using them from the can. Sugar pumpkins are totally edible, and actually taste pretty great when you cook them! They're grown more for their flavor and meat on the squash, unlike a pumpkin you'd buy to carve a jack-o-lantern.

The soup starts off with an onion, a little garlic, and half a stick of butter. I still hate working with onions, but they're in everything and taste great, so I probably should just bite down and get my hands on some onion goggles or something.

It doesn't require too many ingredients. Pumpkin, salt, pepper, nutmeg, curry powder, one bay leaf and chicken stock go into the pot next.

Bring the soup to a boil, and then leave it to simmer for half an hour.

When you check on it, it should look like this:

Now, this wasn't really in the recipe, but as I've mentioned before, the immersion blender is probably my new favorite appliance, and so I couldn't resist whipping it out to make a nice smooth soup. If you decide to to this - with an immersion blender or not - make sure you remember to fish the bay leaf out first! You're not supposed to eat that.

You can prepare this part far in advance, but the recipe says to wait until just before serving to add the finishing touch: two cups of milk.

Mix it up, and then you go!

My friend really wasn't kidding when she said this was an absurdly fantastic soup. It's got an awesome creamy texture, and the curry powder gives it a really nice slow heat. If you're really not a fan of spicy things, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one for you unless you're the one in charge of how much curry powder is going into the soup! I know this might be a little intense for my grandma, who is notoriously not a fan of anything spicy. There's a lot of nice pumpkin flavor in it, too, and something I always like about this kind of recipe is that it doesn't have much salt in it. I love salt, but I know a lot of other people don't or need to watch how much they introduce to their diet, so it's nice when a recipe gives people the opportunity to add more if they want it, or leave it alone if they don't.

So enjoy your holiday, readers, and if you do venture out into the world of retail tonight or tomorrow, please remember that the people helping you find things and checking you out at the registers are, well, people, and they probably don't want to be working eight hour shifts on Thanksgiving, or on the increasingly out of control Black Friday. Show them some kindness and patience - I promise whatever you're rushing out to buy isn't important enough to treat us other people unkindly!

Have a safe, happy holiday!

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