Being a compulsive list-maker, I sat down last weekend and listed things I am thankful for.
It’s three pages long, and I could have added more.
Many of the things on my list have obvious linkages to food, such as being in good health (supported by nutritious food), having more friends than I deserve (with whom I have shared many meals), being part of a loving family (that has food at every celebration), having the energy to be active (fuelled by food) and being born in a beautiful, peaceful and prosperous country (where much good food is produced and harvested).
Other items on my list are actual foods: foods that look, taste and smell great; foods that make me healthy; foods that I love to eat.
I feel a bit silly stating this, but it’s true, and placed in context I think it makes sense.
For a lot of us, there is always enough food; we can take it for granted. But it isn’t so for everyone, even here in this affluent place, and so I am thankful for the nourishing foods that keep me healthy, and also for the ones that I choose just because I like them.
Yes, I’m thankful for chocolate, and not because of the (probably limited) health benefits attributed to it; no, it’s the creamy smooth deliciousness that I am thankful for.
I’m also thankful for bread, in all its many forms. One of my favourite breakfasts consists of a slice of toasted artisanal whole grain bread with butter, a piece of fruit — a plum or a slice of cantaloupe this week — a handful of almonds and a mug of coffee with plenty of milk. The appeal of good bread, toasted, starts with the inviting, grainy aroma and extends to the crisp texture of the surface, the chewy interior with the taste and feel of whole grains. It’s a simple pleasure.
Vegetables and fruits are also prominent among the healthy foods that I’m thankful for. The brightly coloured foods of autumn — pears, cabbage, broccoli, squash, carrots, pumpkin, apples, beets, cranberries, plums — are a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. These sensory characteristics draw us to them, and then they do their magic. As time goes on, the list of health benefits linked with eating lots of vegetables and fruits keeps growing.
Winter squash, with its many variations, is one that I most enjoy. The little delicate squash from our garden are delicious peeled and seeded, sliced thin, arranged in a single layer, topped with a little melted butter, salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven until tender and browned. You can prepare acorn squash the same way. Winter squash can also be baked, boiled, steamed, microwaved or grilled. It can be served diced or pureed, herbed or spiced, gingered or curried.
Squash makes wonderful colourful tasty soup too. Thai flavours heat up the sweet taste of butternut squash in this recipe.
Thai Coconut Squash
From Hapton, Sharon (editor) with Pierre A. Lamielle: The Soup Sisters Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes to Warm Hearts . . . One Bowl at a Time, Appetite by Random House, 2012.
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
15 mL (1 tbsp) grated fresh ginger
30 mL (2 tbsp) olive oil
1.25 L (5 cups) peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash
5 stalks celery, diced
80 mL (1/3 cup) fish sauce
60 mL (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar
15 mL (1 tbsp) sambal oelek (hot chili sauce)
6 lime leaves
3 L (3 quarts) chicken stock
2 cans (398 mL/14 oz each) unsweetened coconut milk
zest and juice of 2 limes
salt to taste
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in the oil, until the onions are softened.
Stir in the squash, celery, fish sauce, brown sugar, sambal oelek and lime leaves.
Add the stock.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
Simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
Puree the soup until smooth. Add the coconut milk, and the zest and juice of the limes. Reheat over medium heat and add salt to taste.
Ladle up a steamy dish of soup, and garnish with a bright sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
Makes About 8 servings
Several eagle-eyed readers noticed an omission in one of the recipes in last week’s column. I left out the yeast in the oatmeal brown bread, although it was referred to in the method. Sorry! The recipe calls for 1 envelope of active dry yeast, or 11 mL (2 1/4 tsp) of yeast, if you buy it by the bottle.
Best wishes to all for a happy Thanksgiving, and a delicious seasonal feast with friends and family.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at email@example.com.