Back when I lived in a dormitory, a common piece of advice floating around was, “Don’t become roommates with your best friend. If you’re best friends now, living together will change that.” Fortunately, after dorming with good friends and now being married for ten years, I can say that this is not always true. However, living with others does allow us to see the best and worst of them, and ourselves. Friendships can be easier to maintain when we wave goodbye after meeting for coffee and only have our own dirty socks or snoring or alarm clocks to deal with. The whole world living in studio apartments, however, would not only be economically inefficient and inconducive to raising families, it would also be very lonely. Siblings may kick us under the table and take the cornflakes when we ask for them to be passed, but who else would we play with at 6:30 am when we are young? Who else would be reminisce with about family traditions when we grow up? Learning to live together peacefully can be both our greatest source of frustration and our greatest joy.
I first read the book “Pumpkin Soup” in a Hebrew translation, and I liked it so much that I bought the original English version. Cat, Squirrel, and Duck are best friends, living together in an old white cabin in a pumpkin patch. They make pumpkin soup together and each performs his assigned task in cooking the daily soup. The harmony is disrupted when one decides to try out his friend’s job, causing a major spoon-grabbing, head-bopping, domestic rumpus to ensue, which causes the offender to pack up and leave. The two friends back home wait and worry, and their anger turns to sadness.
Sometimes I feel like a child is trying to do my job. Likewise, sometimes my response is childish. Siblings will interrupt each other and take over each others’ games, accidentally, just “trying to help.” As annoying as it is to have our toes stepped on, literally or figuratively, at the end of the day, we’re all eating the same soup for supper. (Well…those of us who agree to eat pumpkin.) No matter who sets the table, who puts in too much salt, and who sits on the couch reading and waiting to be served, family is family.
The first time I ate pumpkin soup, I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I knew pumpkin in two forms: Mrs. Smiths’ frozen pumpkin pies and a pumpkin stew my parents made every winter from a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree. I was now sitting in a Japanese restaurant, and the idea of pumpkin soup sounded exotic. It was delicious. I had no idea at the time how easy it would be to make pumpkin soup of my own.
Continuing with our heart health challenge, pumpkin is the perfect addition. You can join the 30 day heart health challenge and get healthy tips every day by following Israeli Salad on Facebook. Pumpkin is high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure. It is also full of the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, and high in fiber and vitamins A, B , and C. While the most common form of pumpkin in America is canned, here in Israel, fresh pumpkin is sold in chunks. If you’re lucky, it is pre-wrapped in plastic. In some stores, there is simply a giant pumpkin sitting in the refrigerator with a knife stuck in it for self-hacking. If you encounter an open pumpkin without a knife, ask a store worker for assistance. Knives are sometimes kept separate for safety reasons.
An interesting property of pumpkin is its mild flavor. That’s a nice way of saying it’s bland and, well, lonely-tasting on its own. Pumpkin is versatile and mixes well with other vegetables and both sweet and savory spices. Perhaps this is how “pumpkin” became a term of endearment, along with “dear,” “sweetheart,” etc. Maybe calling someone pumpkin is like saying, “We complete each other.” Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods, and I often add pumpkin to chicken soup or orange soup. Today’s soup is mostly pumpkin, but it needs the sweet potato to maximize its potential. The warm mix of spices includes some you’ll find in a classic pumpkin pie spice mix, plus an added Middle Eastern twist. This pumpkin soup can be made into a complete meal by serving with couscous and low-fat yogurt and garnished with pumpkin seeds.
Enjoy a bowl of this heart-friendly pumpkin soup with your loved ones!
Fresh Pumpkin Soup Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1 small potato
1 medium sweet potato
1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) fresh pumpkin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
plain yogurt (optional)
raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
6-8 cups waters
- Heat olive oil in a large pot. Cut onion into large chunks. Saute onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
- Cut potato, sweet potato, and pumpkin into large chunks. Add to the pot. Add seasonings. Saute another 2-3 minutes.
- Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Puree with an immersion blender.
- Garnish with plain yogurt and pumpkin seeds. Add couscous to make it into a filling meal.