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Verses from my Kitchen: Soup Series: Curried Squash & Orange Soup with Pancetta, Sage and Creme Fraiche

December 10, 2011

Soup Series: Curried Squash & Orange Soup with Pancetta, Sage and Creme Fraiche


The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. The traditions that you grow up with flood back as you see kids light up like a tree at the thought of Christmas. Families spending time together remind you of your childhood. The smiles that paint the faces of nameless people you encounter last for as long as the holidays do. Then, like a sunset, they fade away. The season brings with it a multitude of wonderful things. Always. Not always.

My father. Dad. Stranger. The first few years of my life were spent as a young family doing what young families do. Like a mirage, that came and went. I haven't seen him in nearly twenty years, instead choosing something else to do. With someone else. The first few years without him was difficult. And different. Now it's slowly progressed to normal. Better.

But this isn't about him. Or the bad times. The forget me times, scratch them from my filed away memories and throw them away. Forever. It's about so much more than that. The little things. The bigger people.

These are just a few of my favourite things. And people that mold the moments that will always hold a special place in my heart. Like my grandparents, my mother, my wife, my friends, my in-laws, my wife and everybody that ever made an impact on me. Let me expand on that.

My grandparents slipped from my life years ago now. I think of them often but it's during the holidays that I shed a tear for their absence. I'll never wake up on Christmas morning at their place again with my grandmother making breakfast and smiling in a way she only knew how. I'll never get to build snowmen out back of the house with my grandmother making soup inside to warm me up. But, until my time slips away, I'll have those memories. And a thousand brighter ones.

My mother didn't always have a lot. But she gave a lot. One more thing for me and one less for her. More importantly, she gave me life. Love. Everything. She made mistakes, but we all did. Do. She made my holidays seem larger than life. The big tree decorated together, the music filling the house and the traditions I have with me today all because of her. And then. For some time she was a single mom doing her best. That's what she did. I'll never forget it.

Years ago I met my wife. Just a bit shy of December, it's been the greatest gift I ever gave to myself. Or someone gave to me. We were married just after Christmas two years ago. The greatest day of my life is the one gift I'll never be able to outdo. She has given me a lot of things over the years, but nothing greater than her love. And she brought with her the holiday spirit that fills our house and holds me tight at night.

W and I have a special thing going on. But, more often than not, she is the glue that holds us together. She sets the mood for holidays and decorates the house. She creates lists of music that we listen to during the season and reminds me all the time that the spirit lasts longer then a season and the real theme of the holidays doesn't start and stop with the gifts. It's one reason we don't exchange gifts, instead choosing to do things for each other. With each other.

My In-laws have brought with them a different set of traditions. Some I'm just not used to and I'm not always fond of but others that I absolutely adore. They celebrate the season with an unbridled enthusiasm and it's contagious. I'm grateful for the chance to share Christmas eve with them and wake up celebrating family and the love it has brought me. When you get married you join another family. It comes attached. I'm grateful I have them and get to share in our own new traditions together.

I look forward to the season because of all these people. And the memories that pop up and reveal themselves whenever I see something that reminds me of my youth. Family, friends, loved ones. All of them. And as I get a bit older and have a family of my own I look forward to passing on the traditions I grew up with to someone else.

In the meantime I revel in the spirit that shows itself on the people I cross. I cherish my weekends and a pot of soup. The cold, blustery winds outside and the great escape back inside and sitting over a bowl of something hot and delicious. Like this soup. On a day like today.

Christmas is my favourite time of all. Not for the traditional reasons or because of the gifts. That left me a long time ago. It's the one time of year that we're brought together out of routine and forced to do the things that should come naturally. Be selfless. Loving. Always. And, for a short while, we abandon our own good for the good of those around us.

I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I make them again. But for a few weeks every year I try to be the best me I can be. And I try to remind everyone around me just how amazing I think they are. Just how important they've always been. I let them know that it wouldn't be the same without them. And I mean it.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. For a few short weeks everybody you know and the others you don't seem different. Better. Happier. 'Tis the season, right? I'm looking forward to sharing it with the people that matter and remembering the ones that once did as well. And always will.

From my kitchen to yours,


Curried Squash & Orange Soup

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp. chopped sage
  • 4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. curry paste
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • creme fraiche (garnish)
  • pancetta, thinly sliced and sauteed (garnish)
  • sage, chopped (garnish)
  1. Using a large saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium-height heat. Add onions and sage and cook for five minutes, or until onions are softened. Add in the squash and coarse salt and continue cooking until squash softens, about five more minutes. Add in the garlic and curry paste and stir continuously and cook for a further minute.
  2. Add in the chicken stock and orange juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes, or until squash is very soft.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in a food processor leaving a bit of texture behind.
  4. Before serving, saute thinly sliced pancetta over medium high heat until crisp. Ladle soup into four bowls and top with crisp pancetta, a spoonful of creme fraiche and some chopped sage. Serves four.


At December 10, 2011 at 11:20 PM , Anonymous sanfranciscolife said...

I loved your recipe and the memories about christmas are lovely. Christmas is my favorite hollyday. I use pancetta in my pastas as recommanded by my Italian friend who owns a popular restaurant in San Francisco. Liana over at http://www.fulbelly1.blogspot.com Sorry my sight is under construction

At December 11, 2011 at 8:10 AM , Blogger A Thought For Food said...

You totally need to do a soup swap... because you must be accumulating a ton of containers from doing all of these posts.

Though I've never really celebrated Christmas, my MIL loves decorating and having everyone over for dinner. It's a magical time... and one that I absolutely love.

At December 11, 2011 at 9:07 AM , Blogger bridget {bake at 350} said...

What a beautiful post!!! I'm sitting here at my kitchen table..looking at the lights on the tree...and getting a little teary-eyed.

The soup is gorgeous, too! So happy to have found you this week!

At December 11, 2011 at 10:34 AM , Blogger Rosemary said...

you are absoluately great with your words, touch the soles of all and your receipe looks yummy.
Your Grandparents would be proud, just like me your mom

At December 11, 2011 at 11:24 AM , Anonymous Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) said...

Mike, your post touched me as many of them do. I admit that I get stressed at this time of year and shopping for gifts sometimes feels more like an obligation than a heartfelt gesture. But when I look at a lit-up tree and see the people most important to me, I'm reminded of what Christmas is supposed to be about--just like you have done here.

A curry-based soup is in my post lineup but I like your version a lot!

Wishing you and W a wonderful Christmas.

At December 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM , Blogger Sippity Sup said...

A great read right before my own Christmas party tonight. GREG

At December 11, 2011 at 4:27 PM , Blogger a Palate and a Passport said...

Enjoyed your words! I love the fruit and veg combo here and nicely garnished as well.

At December 12, 2011 at 9:34 AM , Anonymous jenna said...


At December 12, 2011 at 9:36 AM , Anonymous Amanda said...

This is beautiful! Your words are wonderful... so poetic and touching. Just adore being here!

At December 12, 2011 at 3:39 PM , Anonymous lisa@cluttercafe said...

A beautiful post and the soup looks divine. I made a butternut squash bisque http://cluttercafe.com/2011/12/02/butternut-squash-and-crab-bisque/ recently and am addicted. I will certainly try this one as well. I can't get enough.

At December 14, 2011 at 5:07 PM , Anonymous Rosie @ Sweetapolita said...

Such a heartwarming post, Mike. I loved reading your reflections on the holiday season. I have to admit that at this time of year I tend to get a little stressed out and distracted, but this year, I have to say that my heart & soul are allowing me to enjoy the holidays for what they really mean. The soup looks as gorgeous as ever, and, for some reason, I can't take my eyes off of that dollop of creme fraiche. What does this say about me? Your work always lifts my spirits, so thanks for that. Happy Holidays to you and your family. xo

At December 19, 2011 at 8:59 AM , Anonymous Carolyn said...

That is a gorgeous soup, Mike. And I love how you share glimpses into your life...


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