I know you. You’re the one with the de-shelved house, the board games strewn across the floor, where there are more dirty cups in your dishwasher than people.
I have that same house; where the kids haven’t left the house for days. School was cancelled because of the cold. There’s a half-torn-apart fort in the living room. Yet, we all tend to congregate in one room, the warmest one, the kitchen, where the cabin fever has our nerves on edge. And it takes all my effort just to try to quiet the guilt I feel inside because they are spending way too much time on their screens.
I spotted the UPS man get out of his truck, in this cold, and walk toward our house with a big white oversized envelope. I ran to meet him quickly, so he could get back inside of that semi-warm truck.
I handed the envelope to a bored son, and he began to pry it open. Inside was something magical. Something that transformed our entire day.
The package was from Dalyn Miller PR. It held a beautiful, heavy, oversized hardback book — full of huge, vibrant photos, full of bright greens, oranges, reds and creamy whites. This was the latest cookbook from Paul Gayler: Great Homemade Soups: A Cook’s Collection. This was a package of comfort.
I should have been cleaning the house — but in the final stretch of the end of our “calamity time” together (school is on, so far for tomorrow) I decided to whip up a feast to celebrate. Although, I wasn’t sure if I was celebrating the fact that they would be back in school, or that they had been home so long. But they’re here, and you might as well feed them — and make it a beautiful feast while you’re at it.
It’s rare today that I actually hold a cookbook in my hands. Preferring the eye candy of Pinterest… this is how I plan my meals. Virtually, on screens. But this book reminded me of what I had been missing — really perusing, checking the list of ingredients against the mental list in my head. LIngering over the photos, and just imagining a bit how dinner, no, an entire afternoon could be transformed.
And then, I wondered, why we had been subsisting on just the basics for so long: cereal, pancakes, rice, chicken, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Nothing special, nothing as beautiful as the food on these pages.
The boys choose the recipe that was as orange as sunshine: pumpkin and walnut soup with cepÃ©s. (Mushrooms.) I just happened to have a butternut squash, from last summer’s garden, sitting in the basement. This would have to be my substitute for the pumpkin.
This must have inspired some kind of energy, because suddenly, a recipe was called up on the computer for soft ginger molasses cookies, (to pack in the school lunches tomorrow) and the mixer was pulled out, and then someone asked what the canned peaches were for, so we set out to make a pie, and I already had a roast in the oven. And then, I pulled out that fermenting sourdough and made some lavender herb bread.
Meanwhile, the squash was sliced (Mr. Gayler, I love your cookbook, and your recipes. You are talented beyond measure, and thank you for transforming this humdrum day. Please try my method of cooking a pumpkin, to cut out all of that unnecessary peeling and cutting — or at least explain to me why your way is better), the seeds were roasted, and we set out to make this soup.
It was quite unusual — sauteing onions with walnuts, then adding the squash with Madeira. Then, heavy cream. The mushrooms came later — they were sauteÃ©d in butter, along with shallots and garlic to create “croutons” that we sprinkled on top of our bowls. Bowls of comfort. Bowls of soup so rich, I felt bold enough to open the door and take that Rosie out for a walk.
I know you have so many great recipes stored on Pinterest, and the last thing you need is a new cookbook…But trust me. This is one cookbook you need — just to save your sanity on cabin fever days.
I am sure that Mr. Gayler never dreamed his soup would show up in a kitchen like this one… but, you know, I had to feed them, so I made the feast as beautiful as possible…