I used to feel really guilty every year after Halloween, as I watched my poor pumpkin’s happily carved face droop and sag, eventually becoming mushy and maybe even fuzzy before I carried it the long, green mile to the compost bin.
It made me think about all of the millions (and millions!) of pumpkins on front porches all over the country, silently executing the same eerie slow dance of decomposition (like something out of Mary Roach’s Stiff — bwa ha ha!), and it made me feel dreadfully wasteful.
So, about five years ago, I started a new tradition around my house. It starts out the night before Halloween with the traditional carving of one very sincere pumpkin. (No matter how much I intend for it be different each year, I’ve carved basically the same face on my pumpkins since I was a little kid – a happy face with an ear-to-ear grin and eyes squinting as if in laughter.)
My pumpkin cheerfully performs his duty as illuminated guardian of candy distribution on Halloween night, and then he goes straight into the fridge. The next evening, I make my Smiling Pumpkin Bisque Soup.
This soup is a bit of a production, what with peeling and weighing the pumpkin and having to run hot liquid through the blender, but the result is well worth it. Curry in a squash recipe is fairly typical, but the unlikely pairing with Italian seasoning is the surprise winner here, and the texture of the smooth and creamy bisque is simply exquisite. It is all the more special for being a once-a-year endeavor.
You can make this soup vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and make it vegan by using a soy or nut product instead of the dairy and oil instead of butter. The flavor and texture will be a little different, but I’m betting it will still be fantastic.
Here is how to have your Halloween pumpkin and eat it, too:
Smiling Pumpkin Bisque Soup
12 cups chicken broth
2 T butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 lbs flesh from a happy Halloween pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped (no candle wax!)
1 T flour and 1 T curry powder, mixed and set aside
1 cup hot milk
3 T heavy cream
2 T Italian seasoning blend (McCormick’s)
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of pepper
Put butter in a big soup pot. Add onion and pumpkin and cook on low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour/curry mixture over pumpkin and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring. Add chicken stock and simmer until the pumpkin is tender (± 30 minutes) Heat milk separately and add to pumpkin/broth. Being careful not to overfill the blender with hot liquid, blend well in several batches and pour into a second, clean pot. The texture should be totally smooth, no lumps. After blending, simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and add Italian seasoning and a pinch of nutmeg and pepper. Add a little swirl of cream on top of each bowl and serve.
According to Ayurvedic tradition, if food is full of Prana and is prepared with love and care, it nourishes the mind and spirit as well as the body. “Prana” is the Sanskrit word for energy, or life force, and I think it is fair to say that carving a face onto a pumpkin is a deliberate act of personifying the life force of the squash — so no sad or scary faces in the soup!
As they say, you are what you eat.