As the winds turn cool and begin to whip across the valley, I find myself reaching for the same familiar items each season. Woollen socks for perpetually cold feet, quilts nearly half as old as I am and an old hand-me-down soup pot that is both weathered and well-loved. These items form my holy trinity for the colder months and I wonder what yours might be.
The world would have me think that chicken soup is the answer to everything but I didn't grow up with chicken soup in my bowl so, for me, it is only the answer to what to do with leftover chicken. Potato and leek is nice enough, though not my favourite use for a spud and, if I'm being honest, a little nothing-y in the taste department. The appeal of tomato soup is something I will never understand, no matter how hard the people at Campbell's try to make me see the light. Of course there is lentil soup, flecked with smoked gammon and a little on the spicy side, which means something to me because it means home to him. Meanwhile, home for me (in soup form at least) has always been pumpkin soup. Rich and sweet and nutty. Add garlic if you like, curry paste if you please, coconut milk too or just a dash of cream. I've tried it all and more still, but less is always best. The pumpkin should be allowed to shine as bright as it likes in all its autumnal glory. If you're curious, this is the recipe I use more often than not though I usually leave out the last two ingredients, sometimes add a bit of corn and always a good dose of black pepper because I am my mother's daughter.
The leaves flutter freely from their branches now and the crisp air fills with tendrils of woodsmoke. Returning home from long walks among the pines and oaks, cheeks and fingers hum and tingle as the warm glow of the fire melts away the chill.
Sure hands become busy in the small kitchen, the cool of the knife meeting the rough of the chopping board in a dance we can all do from memory alone.
The book isn't so much needed as it is wanted and is pulled from the shelf. The words have been read and re-read so many times, letters obscured by splatters of butter and oil, corners stamped with the orange hued fingerprints of seasons past. It is pure ritual and I find delight in every movement - smoothing the thick pages, chopping, roasting, caramelising, boiling and pause...
Time to let it all be, pour a glass of wine and watch the evening close in around us, leaning over the sink, gazing out the window and allowing my mind to wander wherever it wishes for a few moments. There is no clock watching here, just a sense of when "ready" might be.
A call to the table, spoons rattling, chairs scraping, the thick glug of soup from ladle to bowl.
Soup's up and there is plenty to go around.