In my last post, I wrote about my friend Jill and her mother’s handwritten recipe for chili eggs. (Jill had invited us over for brunch, and this was the dish she made.) Jill’s mother passed away several years ago, and Jill spoke of the connection she felt with her mother via the handwritten recipe.
Reminiscence and connection can take many forms, but it seems to me that a handwritten recipe is an especially lovely way to remember loved ones who have died. And as we approach the Day of the Dead (or All Soul’s Day) on November 1st, this is a very appropriate time to do so.
This started me thinking about recipes I have received from family and friends who have passed away. Because it is soup season, one of the first recipes that came to mind is one for Spicy Peanut Soup, given to me by my friend Barbara Johnson, who died four years ago at the much-too-young age of sixty-eight.
At the time of her death, Barbara and I had been friends for about fifteen years. Simply put, we were kindred spirits. We loved many of the same things—nature, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen, England, tea, books, and movies. Even now, when I read or see something that I know would be interesting to her, I want to give her a call. She was a cat fancier, and I am a dog lover, but we somehow managed to reconcile this difference so that it did not affect our friendship. Seriously, though, we were such good friends that we felt completely at ease in each other’s company, so relaxed that we could just be ourselves. As an added bonus, Barbara was a terrific cook, one of the best home cooks I know. She won several cooking competitions, and I was lucky enough to be invited to her home on many occasions for lunch and dinner.
The following recipe for Spicy Peanut Soup, which I have in Barbara’s handwriting, is at the top of my “favorite soups” list. It is easy to make; the ingredients are inexpensive; and the combination of tangy spices, sweet squash, and peanut butter give it an irresistible taste. Plus, it’s good for you.
Bon appètit, indeed!
Spicy Peanut Soup
Serves 4-6, depending on appetite
4 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked & pureed pumpkin or squash
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne (More can be added to taste)
5 cups water or chicken stock (For a thicker soup, use less liquid, and for a thinner one, add a little more)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup peanut butter (Crunchy is best)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream and/or croutons for garnish
Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion. Cover and cook about ten minutes or until onion is translucent. Check to make sure onion does not burn. (The heat might need to be adjusted.)
Add the water, squash, tomato paste, peanut butter, and spices. Blend to smoothness. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.