Linda's Pumpkin Soup

Linda is my little sister.I guess since I am now 52, I shouldn't call her my "little" sister anymore. Regardless, that is what she is to me and by the time Linda was born, Mom and Dad already had four other children aged 5, 8, 9 and 10 and lots of family photos had been taken.  Mom and Dad were busy with their five children so I guess they weren't pulling out the camera very often after 1966.  It has been the source of endless jokes in our family.  My brothers teased Linda with a vengeance, as brothers can do, about the lack of photos with all five of us.  She was adopted.  We found her on the porch.  She really belongs to Mrs. McGilicudy (the made-up-name for our scary old lady neighbor). It couldn't have been easy to be the youngest of five rambunctious children.

Obviously, there were SOME photos of her and she knew that they were teasing her.  But, boys will be boys and little girls can be unsure about life and so it was a fun game they liked to play until she cried, which continued well into her adult life (the game, not the crying).  I can't help but smile and point out that when I compiled images for my initial posts in My Story, someone was noticeably missing from my photos.

 I feel it necessary to confirm that Linda, also known in years gone by as Boo, is indeed one of my siblings, she was born into our family, and we all love her dearly.

The Flick Five - about 1970

But I can't confirm that I was always thrilled to be photographed with her.

Linda and Me - about 1969

Who am I kidding?  I really just wanted to document my amazing and diverse fashion sense.  I wish I had that plaid jumper and flowered skirt today.  Things have not changed much in some areas.  I could still dress like  Austin Powers one day and Frida Kahlo the next.

As mentioned in My Story...Part 3, we did not grow up cooking. Linda sailed through high school, college and young adult life focusing on all kinds of wonderful pursuits, none of which was cooking.  Then in her 30's, she decided it was time.  She showed up to Thanksgiving and declared she had made something to share.  We were afraid...oh so afraid. This was my little sister who thought opening a can of soup was cooking.  Knowing what our minds were thinking, she said, "No really.  My friend Michael gave me this great recipe for Pumpkin Soup and it is really easy and really good." Being the supportive sister that I try but don't always manage to be, I fake smiled and agreed to serve it to everyone as a starter.

Lo, and behold.  It was delicious. I have made this soup dozens of times and been asked for the recipe equally as many times.  It IS easy, It IS good, and Linda's Pumpkin Soup is a Fall family favorite.

Thank you Boo.

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"A sister smiles when one tells one's stories - for she knows where the decoration has been added." -Chris Montaigne

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Linda's Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup butter 1 cup chopped yellow onion 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 tsp (or more) curry powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground coriander 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper 3 cups chicken broth 1-3/4 cups pumpkin (14 oz.) 1 cup 1/2 & 1/2 creme fraiche (or sour cream) and chives for garnish

In a large saucepan, melt butter and saute onion and garlic over med/low heat until soft (about 3-5 minutes).  Take care not to burn the garlic! Add curry, salt, coriander and red pepper flakes.  Cook 1 minute. Add chicken broth and boil gently uncovered 15-20 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, add 1/2 & 1/2 and cook 5 minutes. Pour into blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot to heat through. Serve sprinkled with chopped chives and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Note:  A super-fun treat, especially for kids, is to serve this in a pumpkin.  Scrape clean a pumpkin and fill it with the warm soup.  Put the pumpkin on a baking sheet in the oven and heat at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

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Sarah's Chilled Pea Soup

I find it very fortunate that I have never been a big worrier.It is not because I am smart or organized or efficient. I don’t worry because I am just too naive to ever think of  outcomes that I should be worried about.  I usually find out from other people that I should  have been worried about a situation, well after it is over and done.

Moving to new cities, and even new countries when I was over six months pregnant might have been cause for some concern.  But it was just what I did at the time.  And I did it three times!  I guess I forgot about the first two times when people told me how crazy I was.  Having a selective memory has also served me quite well throughout my life.

Since I have these traits, I just let myself believe that they are a good thing. The most significant example of my naiveté is how shocked people are to find out that I cooked for Julia Child.  Since I am not nor have I ever been a professional in the kitchen, that information is a bit surprising.  But I did not cook for her at an event, nor as part of a fundraiser, nor as a job in a test kitchen.  I cooked for Julia as a friend, to sit down and eat with her.

Hubby and I met Julia for the first time in 1981 at the inaugural meeting of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF).  Julia and Robert Mondavi gathered wine professionals, chefs and friends to kick off a new organization that would honor and promote gastronomy.  The meeting was held in Santa Barbara, California, and Hubby and I were invited since he worked in the wine business and we were friends with people in that world.

Hubby as a young wine professional.
Hubby as a young wine professional.

We were still in college at the time and were definitely the youngest people there.  That meeting and subsequent brief meetings with Julia weren't memorable, to her nor to us.  No one had cell phones back then and meeting someone once or twice did not constitute a friendship.  We lived our separate lives and continued pursuing our mutual loves of wine and food.

The Julia meeting.
The Julia meeting.

Many years later, we ran into Julia at a party.  We began reminiscing about AIWF and that meeting and subsequent years of me being on the AIWF New York board and mutual friends and so on.  I moved on to chat with others at the party that night but Hubby and Julia continued talking for hours.  When we were leaving, Julia said “Let’s have dinner,” and a beautiful friendship began.

I cooked for Julia numerous times, usually at my house with me in the kitchen and a few friends around the table.  A few times I cooked at Julia’s place with friends of hers and her endearing assistant Stephanie.  Eating and cooking with Julia was always entertaining and she liked to have participants.  This was during a period late in Julia’s life so she wasn’t usually active in the cooking, although she did teach me to shuck oysters one fun evening in my neighbors kitchen.

It seemed very normal to cook for a friend and so it wasn’t a topic of conversation that I brought up much with people during the years it was happening.  Obviously I knew Julia was famous; we ate out at restaurants with Julia and she was a very recognizable figure.  We became used to people clapping when she entered or coming to the table to shower her with praise.  Julia took it all in stride and accepted it with grace and modesty.  She had many, many friends that she ate out with at restaurants, but, as I learned later, not so many who cooked for her.

Cooking for Julia was truly a joy.
Cooking for Julia was truly a joy.

When Julia died, it was announced that Hubby had been named a trustee of the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, and it became public that we knew her well.  It was then that I realized that cooking for Julia Child was something that might have, or maybe should have, caused a bit of anxiety for an inexperienced home cook like myself.  People exclaim upon finding out that I had Julia to dinner that I must have been SO NERVOUS!  It finally began to dawn on me how oblivious I really am.  And I have an equally oblivious husband.  He was the one who called her up to invite her over the week after the party where we had reconnected.  Apparently, she had given him her number during their conversation that night.  He casually told me that Julia Child was coming to dinner that Friday night and asked who else should we invite.

I wasn’t nervous at all that first time.  Julia was such a warm and wonderful lady, it never occurred to me that she would be critiquing my food.  For me, it was just a chance to get together with friends who would be interested in wine and food.  It turns out that I was right to be relaxed about it because Julia was the most gracious guest one could ever have.

The first thing I served was a chilled pea soup that I learned to make from my friend Sarah while living in Australia.  It is a fresh-tasting, simple recipe that I had made dozens of times and people always seemed to enjoy.  Julia complimented it as she dove in enthusiastically, saying something like “This is delightful Dearie.  What is in it?”  I replied, “It is Lettuce Pea Soup, pureed and chilled, with cream added at the end.”  My good friend Peter who was also at the dinner said, “Are you serious?”  I thought he was referring to the lettuce and I told him it really did have an entire head of iceberg lettuce in it.  He laughed deviously and suggested I rethink the name of my “Let Us Pee Soup.”   Julia had a great sense of humor and loved a good laugh so it was a great start to a wonderful friendship.

When I think back on situations like this one, I am very grateful for my obliviousness.  Perhaps I am not as conscientious, intellectual or driven as some people, but my lack of perfection has allowed events to happen that may never have come to be if I had thought too much.  Apparently, inviting Julia Child to come over for a home-cooked dinner was not something a lot of people felt comfortable doing.  It’s too bad more people didn’t because Julia probably would have said yes.  Inviting Julia to dinner is what sparked the development of our friendship.  And my memories of our friendship, and dining with Julia casually around our table, are priceless to me.  The food may not have always been up to par with her usual fare, but we always had a good laugh and a good time.

"Learn how to cook-try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" - Julia Child

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Sarah’s Chilled Pea Soup

1/4 pound fresh shelled peas OR 1 heaping cup frozen peas 1 large potato, peeled and sliced 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1 head iceberg lettuce, broken up 5 cubes chicken bouillon dissolved in 3 cups water OR 3 cups very strong chicken broth 2 T. chopped chives 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream (to your taste) juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 T.) 1 tsp salt or to taste 1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste chopped chives and blanched snow peas for garnish

Put peas, potato, onion, lettuce and chives in large pan with strong chicken broth.  Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is soft.  Cool and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Add cream, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  If too thick, add more chicken broth. Chill thoroughly. Serve with snow peas and chives sprinkled on top.

Note:  Can be prepared one day ahead but add cream a few hours before serving.

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