Archive for September 2010

Stardust

September 28, 2010

Complete darkness surrounds me when I step outside this morning at 5:30.  I take a few tentative steps, then begin a slow trot, trying to adjust to running by feel.  It has been almost 30 years since I have gone for a run in the dark.  A streetlamp casts a pool of light when I reach the corner and I look down automatically to see the surface of the road.  My shoes are worn almost to the bare soles and so I can feel the pavement underfoot. Trusting the sensory capabilities of my feet gives me a sense of safety as I move forward into the coming dawn.

As I run down the hill onto Old Garden Road, I look up and see a million stars twinkling in the sky.  I imagine I am treading on stardust, which pleases the poet in me.  I run past another streetlamp and again look down to see where I am stepping but before I can register what lies ahead, I am beyond the light and on my own again.

I run without music this morning,  listening for the soft growl or step of a coyote.  This time of day belongs to that grey, prowling hunter, this time before the streets fill with cars and trucks and bikes, runners and dog-walkers and school children waiting for their buses.  There is an abundance of coyotes in this area of town.  I’m not usually afraid of them, but I feel vulnerable today— out so early and alone.  A small can of pepper spray clips onto the waistband of my shorts and my hand flutters close to it—  ready just in case.

I hear footsteps and strain to see who is out here with me.  I see a flash of pink that, as I get closer,  becomes two elbows pumping up and down and then, as she runs beneath a light, the figure of another runner.  I am approaching fast and cannot decide if I should speak.  I don’t want to scare her, and my footsteps are so quiet in my soft, worn sneakers that I’m anxious she won’t hear mine over her own.  As I come upon her left side, I clear my throat and she quickly turns her head.  I see relief in her postural silhouette and I say good morning.  She returns my greeting, then says she is glad to see me.

“It’s kind of creepy out here in the dark.”

“Yeah, a little, but also lovely.  Look at the stars!”

I pass her and look up again myself, but dawn is breaking and the stars have all but faded back into the early morning sky.

As I turn onto Eden Road, I find myself slowing, hoping for a little more light before I reach the part of the road that is patched, pocked, and gravelly.  The sky above the Twin Lights on Thacher Island glows a faint peachy-white, but the surface beneath my feet remains nearly invisible.  Each footfall seems a risk to plummet off of the edge of the earth.  I try to stop thinking about falling and trust my feet and balance to help me along.  I look ahead and see another runner.  It’s my friend Susie, bright and fresh at the start of her run.  She is stunned to see me out this early.  Like the coyotes, this is her time and I am an intruder.  I usually see her when she is well on her way, or even on her return loop.  We barely chat— I want to grant her privacy as she begins her warm up.

As I turn onto Penzance and down the hill by Loblolly Cove, I focus on the sounds around me.  I can hear the peepers in the marsh, their low, soft song like a thousand heartbeats.  I hear frogs croaking their rubber band tune in the shallow water; the timothy grasses whisper their secrets in my ear.  I take my hand, brush it against the long, bent reeds that reach out over the pavement and bring the moisture from their tips to my mouth.  The cool drops taste of earth and salt and peace.

I can see a bit more as I move along the wooded section of Penzance.  I have seen the coyotes on this stretch before, even in broad daylight.  I reach to my hip and grasp the can of pepper spray.  I hold it in my hand until I reach Pebble Beach.  Safe, I put it back and look out to the sea.  The waves roll in gently; white foam licks the edge of the sand.  Cambourne Pond is still in the early morning light; the ducks must still be tucked into their nests, hugging their beds until the sun peeks up across the road.  The sky is blooming like a rose, peach and pink, opening its petals to the day.  The rosa rugosa nestled into the sand beside the road have all but stopped their blooming; the round orange rose hips hang dry and tired from showing off on the hot summer days.

I return by the long loop of Marmion Way.   The street is now clearly visible beneath me; all my stardust has swept away by the light of this new day.  Each stride has an urgency rooted in the desire for speed.  I decide to finish the run with sprint intervals and I focus on the long, slow hill.  I attack it brutally, panting and sweating, pushing harder and harder until I can feel my legs begin to tremble.  I back off and trot when I reach the top and turn toward home.  There is deep pleasure in today’s ragged breath, in the secrets of the timothy grass, and in the delicate, twinkling residue on the soles of my shoes.

Dad’s Back

September 27, 2010

It’s 6 o’clock Wednesday morning. I’m listening to music, smelling the not-so-fresh-but still good smell of the seaweed washed up on the beaches, and finding a nice pace for my warm up at the beginning of my run.  I pass an elderly man who is walking along the side of the road.  He has a scraggly beard, bright eyes, and a kind smile.  He reminds me of my dad, and that gets me thinking about how my dad will probably never be able to go out for a seaside walk again.  As I run the long loop of Marmion Way, I think about all the time my dad has been in pain— since before he fell on my mom in July.  I turn onto Eden Road and feel tears start to come.  I try to stop them, to will them away, but it is impossible.  As I run past the twin lights on Thacher Island, I am sobbing so hard that when I reach up to wipe my face, I know there are more tears than sweat.

Last week, the visiting nurse decided that before she completed her care of my dad, she would try once more to determine the true source of his pain.  She called my father’s doctor and asked him to order an x-ray of his back.  The doctor did not call my parents with the result, but when the nurse returned for her final visit with my dad, she brought the results.  The test showed that my father had multiple compression fractures in his spine.

I draw one jagged breath after another along Pebble Beach.  I cannot not stop thinking about my father.  Before he fell on my mother in July, he had been suffering from undiagnosed pain.  He had fallen a few times before, but not hard enough to merit a trip to the hospital; he had been to the doctor to be checked.  The source of Mom’s pain was obvious— the x-rays taken right after dad fell on her  revealed spinal fractures.  She was popping two extra strength Tylenol every six hours, watching the clock to see when she could have her next dose.   We had so much trouble remembering the exact time for the next round of pills that we finally began a log to keep track.  Two OTC pain killers aren’t much in the way of relief.  I know.  I have had my own bouts with pain.  It really just takes the edge off.  And for days we cried, she and I, about the demise of our summer and the even larger one of her life.  She hurt when she sat or lay down.  She hurt when she stood.  Showering was a major effort, as was using the toilet.  And because her back hurt, she walked differently, which made her legs hurt.  And her hips.  Even the simple act of opening a window or a cabinet increased her pain.

As my mother continued to take her pills and to rest, waiting to heal and get on with her life, my father continued to sleep in his recliner chair in their den.  He napped and watched television in that chair all day; night came, the lights went out, and still he stayed in the chair.  He was unable to sleep in his bed.  He could not lay on his side, nor on his back.  He was vague about where he felt pain, but insisted he was unable to walk, get into a bed, or even come to the table to eat.

I think back to that time, just weeks ago, and can see him struggling to gain a comfortable position in that chair.  He would use the remote to raise himself to almost standing, push his body back, then return the chair to recline, over and over again.  I could hear him from the bed where I slept in down the hall, the sound of the chair’s motor engaged and moving him up and down, all night long.  That whirring, grinding sound insinuated itself into my dreams, my mind taking hold of it and trying to make sense of it by creating disturbing night visions of steamships docking over and over again, of planes landing outside my bedroom window, or of tremendous construction trucks idling in the driveway, waiting to carry me off to some insidious dream-place.  My mother heard it all night, too, from her room at the end of the hall.

His source of pain was at that point undetermined; the doctor had not noticed anything significant during his office visit or in the results of the CAT scan the visiting nurse asked him to order at the beginning of August.  During that time, the same nurse, Alex, discovered a yeast infection the doctor had missed.  It festered under a skinfold on my father’s abdomen.  I had never seen a yeast infection like that— raw and red, inflamed— spanning the distance from one hip to the other.  I assumed that must have been the source of his pain.  Yet after the infection cleared, my father still claimed a sedentary pain level of 4 or 5, which rose to an 8 when he stood up and tried to walk.

His physical therapist restarted his program of mild exercises and walking, but some days he was not able even to make it out the front door and down the driveway.  We were all puzzled— the visiting nurse, the physical therapist, my mom and I— because there did not seem to be a reason for the pain.  His doctor reported some digestive issues, and we figured that milk of magnesia would clear things up.  But it didn’t stop the pain.

One day in particular, after his shower, my mom and I were trying to apply anti-fungal ointment to his belly for the yeast infection.  We made him lay down on his back upon his bed.  Never had I seen such a look of pain on anyone’s face.  His sparkling green eyes opened wide in panic; the grimace on his face made him look like someone else.  He bared his teeth and cried out, grasping for my mother’s arm to help him sit up.  Although we were not mean to him, we were impatient and annoyed with his lack of pain tolerance.  There was nothing wrong with him.  The doctor had said so.

As I push myself up South Street’s long, slow hill, I am struck by a blinding truth that makes me run and cry even harder.  Although I cared for him as best I could, I resented having to take care of him when I felt it was his own fault— for all the choices he has made in his life to bring himself to where he is today.  I love my father and I know I should not judge him for making those choices.   My heart clamps down on itself  for not clearly seeing how much he needed my love, support, and kindness himself while my mom was recuperating.  I feel a physical ache of my own for all the pain he has been in all this time.  For knowing in my heart that it should not matter whether he had broken bones too in order for me to give him my sympathy.  That I should be loving, kind, and gentle whether he is in pain or n0t.  That I should not have to be given a concrete reason for why he hurt in order to give him the same care I gave my mother.

A simple x-ray showed that my dad’s back was in much the same condition as my mom’s.  While she had been in the hospital, then at home resting, taking Tylenol for the pain, and I had been catering to her every need, my poor father was in the same pain for the same reason.  With no pain medicine.  Trying to please the physical therapist and do exercises.  Asking and expecting me to bring him his meals on a tray.  And me, pleasant but not very sympathetic, waiting on him and wondering why he couldn’t get up and do anything at all for himself.

By the time I reach the return loop of Marmion Way, the tears have subsided.  I am exhausted from this run but want to complete the nine miles I planned.  I pass my house and decide not to stop for a drink but to keep going.  I shift into tempo pace as I take the hill toward downtown. I head to the small roadside beaches and I run hard, trying to wipe all thoughts from my mind.  I want to run off the rest of these feelings so I can focus on how to help my parents get my father the health care he needs.  As I make the final the loop toward home, I count my blessings— how lucky I am to have a wonderful, tender husband and good, kind children, that my dear parents are both alive and close enough to see regularly,  that I am able to run and clear my mind, and that I live here on the very edge of this earth, surrounded by sea and sky.

When I arrive at home, I stride straight to the phone and dial.  He answers on the second ring.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hello, Elizabeth.”

“How are you today?  How’s your back?”

“I’m doin’ well.  Feeling a little bit better.”

That’s what he always says.  I take a deep breath.

“Dad, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry about your back.  I’m sorry that I wasn’t kinder to you.  I should have been nicer to you when I was down there taking care of you and Mom.”

“You weren’t nice?  I thought you were nice.”

“Well, I know I could have been a lot nicer than I was.  I’m really sorry, Dad.”

“That’s okay. Don’t feel bad.  And I appreciate all that stuff you did.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You know I love you.”

“Yeah.  I love you, too, Dad.”

The forgiveness in his voice brings the tears back.  When my mother comes on the line, I know she can hear me crying.   She joins me; our reasons overlap and bind us closer than ever before.  I am weary of the ache carved in me from always learning life lessons the hard way.  We vow to get this one down right once and for all.  We affirm it, each taking our turn:  be good and kind to the people you love, no matter what.  Do your best.  Treat the people in your life as if this were the last chance you had to let them know you love them.  Live each moment in that moment; let there be no reason for regret.

Scattered— Part 2

September 21, 2010

The two brothers stand at the stern of the boat and hold the plastic bag containing what is left of their parents.  None of us has prepared any sage words to say.  We have no prayer at the ready.  We are silent, thinking our own thoughts.  The two men open the mouth of the bag and turn it over toward the sea.  The ashes fly out and down into the water.  Some fly onto the lip of the deck.  The brothers’ arms reach out as far as they can and scatter their parents’ ashes together.  I do feel sad.  And, honestly, a little spooked.  This is a strange thing to be doing.  I come from a family of burial people, not cremation people, and even though I plan to be cremated myself, this is completely unfamiliar.  I had never actually seen cremains before the day we mixed the ashes, and seeing them for the second time is no easier or less strange to me.  Although this is just, somehow it does not seem fair, this scattering.  Even though it is what people do.  I look at my family.  My husband and his brother do not meet each others’ gaze.  My children don’t say anything; they watch the ashes flow from the bag with sad eyes and when it is over, they turned their heads.  It is done.

View of the Sea From the Black Pearl

We have also brought Uncle Roger along.  His ashes have been gathering dust since early summer when the crematorium in Florida insisted that no arrangements had been made for him.  He was my mother-in-law’s uncle, and she died while completing the execution of his estate, and before we were notified about his cremains.   He arrived in a brown paper-wrapped metal box during the month of June.  He spent some time in our front hall while we considered scattering him in the garden, but that just didn’t seem right.  We moved him next door to a shelf while we thought about what to do with him.  We had no idea where or if his wife was buried.  Maybe she had been cremated, too.  Then we decided he should be scattered with all that was left of his own family.  So after crumpling up the big plastic bag, my husband opens another smaller one.  He scatters Uncle Roger near where he and his brother had scattered their parents.  My husband is wearing dark sunglasses, so I cannot see his face, but I think this must be hard, too, and he’s doing it alone.  I don’t offer to help, and neither does anyone else.  It is done in only a moment.  His shoulders seem to sag as he crumples that bag, too, then turns to our captain.

Richard stands in the doorway leading to the galley, his slight frame back-lit by the setting sun.  His kind face looks to us, waiting for a signal to know we are finished.  He pivots when he sees we have completed our task, and I wonder what he thinks of us, this tiny family, not visibly grieving, but somber and quiet.  He shifts the boat back into gear and turns it toward the shore, taking us home.

On Sunday morning, I awaken from a long, hard sleep.  Before I know it, I am running along Pebble Beach.  The anxiety from the previous day has slipped away during the night and I am happy.  I feel a lightness in my heart and a sense of relief at having helped honor and complete the wishes of my husband’s parents.  I had not been aware of the weight of the task until it was completed.  One parent has been gone for three years, the other for four months.  There is a gap where they used to be in our lives and in the world, but a sweet space is filled in our hearts where they will remain forever.  This is life.  I run and run, and I watch those perfect waves curl and break onto the sand.  I wonder if any of their ashes have been carried in by these waves and come to rest on this rocky shore Ted and Charlotte loved so much.  I hope so.  And I hope Uncle Roger found his way, too.

Scattered— Part 1

September 20, 2010

Saturday morning dawns cool and bright.  I awaken from a troubled sleep filled with dreams of being late, of not having enough dinner ready, of spilling the contents of a wide brown box all over a boat, and of the disappointed frowns of the souls of my husband’s parents.  Those souls hover around my mind as I move further from sleep and I remember that this  is the day we will fulfill my husband’s parents’ wishes by scattering their intermingled ashes off of the coast of Cape Ann.

I drink coffee and dress to run.  All I can think about is clearing my head of those dreams.  I head down Old Garden  Road, choosing the long loop onto Marmion Way.  The air is cold on my skin, but there is little breeze, so I warm up quickly.  Although I have turned up the volume on my music, the upbeat tunes slip by without notice.  My mind works to make sense of the past year and how it has finally come to today.  I look for anyone I know who might be out running.  I would like company this morning— someone to match my stride, someone to chatter away about whatever is going on in their lives so I can stop thinking about mine for a while.

I turn onto South Street, then Eden Road, Penzance, and down to Pebble Beach.  Camborne Pond is full again, the seaweed is gone from the shoreline, and perfect waves roll in, their curls a translucent pale green as the sun lights them from behind.  I run slower today, thinking about Craig’s mom and dad, how much they loved coming to this beach, even just to drive by it and gaze out at the horizon.  I cannot stop thinking either about what my own mother said on the phone before I left on my run.  Didn’t I feel sad?  Wasn’t this a sad day for us— Craig, the kids and me— the day we really said goodbye to two people we loved so much?

I had answered no.  All that was left of them was ashes.  I already missed them.  They wanted us to do what we planned to do later in the day; we were actually glad to get it over with.  We had mixed the ashes together a few weeks ago.  It was a strange event, with Craig and his brother standing on the front porch, flanked on all sides by the kids and me.  One heavy bag of ashes into another, then stirring them together with a wooden spoon, all on top of the outdoor table where the whole world could watch us if they wanted.  Could it be any stranger than that day?  Also, I didn’t think of the ashes as “them” so much.  They had been vibrant, active people—- one with soft brown eyes and a round soft body, the other with bright blue eyes and a wiry frame.  The ashes were only what was left.  Not them.  No.

After my run, I cook dinner.  I want it to be special, and I want it to be ready when we return in the early evening.  We dress warmly, expecting the air on the open sea to be much cooler that the day on land suggests.  Our son meets us right after work, and the four of us drive over to Cripple Cove in Gloucester.  We are quiet in the car, trying to make conversation but lapsing back into a somber silence that reveals our collective unease.  My brother-in-law is already by the dock and we watch and wait for my friend Richard.  He owns and operates a fishing charter boat.  The Black Pearl pulls up to the dock right on time.  As his charter guests for the day debark, we gather our jackets and bags.  We climb aboard, the two brothers hefting the box of ashes onto the deck with a bit of effort.

Richard introduces himself to my family, drops his son off at a nearby pier, and steers his boat out of the tiny cove toward the open sea.  The five of us try to relax as the wake behind us grows wide and full.  Richard increases his speed and we head into open water.  My kids seem okay, although they are quiet.  My daughter perches on a bench, gazing out toward the sunset and the shoreline of Gloucester.  My son stands at the stern, squinting at the sparkling water, his hands in his pockets, not knowing what else to do.  My brother-in-law keeps to himself most of the time, occasionally making light conversation with one or another of us, and my husband wanders around the boat, taking pictures of Ten Pound Island and its round little lighthouse, and of his family on this day.

As I listen to the hum of the boat’s engine, I think about how my father-in-law would have been pleased with this choice— the fishing boat, (which would have appealed to his frugal side), the sunset, and all of his family here together. Thinking of his tender heart makes me catch my breath.  I think too, that my mother-in-law would have preferred a classier boat, maybe a schooner.  Something more dignified.  But then I think that as long as her husband and she are together, and knowing that the people she loved the most and that loved her were abiding her wish to be with the true love of her life and a part of the sea off of Cape Ann, she would not have been angry.   She might have been a bit dismayed at the smells of fish and engine oil scenting this ceremony, but I know it would have been all right with her.

I pace back and forth between my family and Richard, asking questions and relaying answers, helping decide where we should scatter the ashes.  When we are far enough out, Richard slips the boat’s engine to idle.  We can see Thacher Island and the lip of Cape Hedge Beach.  When we turn, we can see the Boston skyline.  This is the place.

Lentils with Wheat Berries and Roasted Tomato Sauce

September 14, 2010

Although it is not officially autumn, the mornings and evenings have grown so cool that we are already eating far more fall food than summer food.  The garden is still pumping out dozens of fat, red tomatoes, and I am still making big batches of roasted tomato sauce several times a week.  I try to get the pan in the oven right after my run so the tomatoes are done before it’s time to make dinner.  The freezer is about to overflow, and the smell of those roasting tomatoes drives us all wild.  We stand over the pan, breathing in the dark, rich smell of caramelized tomato and garlic, and I have the urge to stop freezing this sauce for winter and start eating it right now.  So I do.

This recipe is so delicious that it is hard to believe how easy it is to make.  The magic ingredient is, of course, roasted tomato sauce.

Me, with the latest batch of roasted tomato sauce. Yum!

Lentils with Wheat Berries and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained

5-6 cups water, divided

1/2 cup soft white wheat berries* or 1/2 cup hard winter wheat berries**

1 Tbsp. concentrated vegan vegetable stock, like Better Than Bullion Organic

1/2 cup roasted tomato sauce

Method:

Place lentils in a medium sauce pan and add enough water to cover two inches above the top of the lentils.   Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer.  Stir in the bullion and the roasted tomato sauce.  Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes to an hour, adding a little more water as needed, but not so much that the lentils are too wet.  Stir occasionally, and turn the heat up for the last few minutes if there is much water left in the pan.  The goal is to have a very thick pot of soft-cooked lentils.  Set aside until wheat berries are cooked.

While the lentils are cooking, rinse the wheat berries and place them in another medium sauce pan with 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer for about an hour, until wheat berries are soft and most of the water is absorbed.  Drain.

Combine lentils with wheat berries and serve hot or warm.  Garnish with a little more of the tomato sauce if you wish.  We love this served on a bed of Swiss chard or kale that has been pan-cooked in a little olive oil with lots of garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, but it’s delicious on its own, too.

*soft white wheat berries can be cooked right out of the package.

**hard winter wheat berries should be soaked overnight and drained before proceeding with this recipe.  The taste and texture of either type of wheat berry are interchangeable for this dish.

Vegan Curried Tofu Salad

September 10, 2010

Back when we ate meat and fish, one of our family’s favorite recipes was curried tuna salad.  It was great for a beach picnic, a quick summer supper, or perfect with a big bowl of homemade tomato soup.  When my daughter and I decided we were done with eating animals, I discovered that extra-firm tofu made a fine substitute for the tuna.  My daughter requested this recipe for school lunch this week, and I had forgotten just how delicious it tastes.

Vegan Curried Tofu Salad

Ingredients:

1 pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed to release excess water*

2 tsp. Madras Curry powder, or more to taste

2 scallions, green ends only, finely chopped

handful of chopped walnuts

handful of chopped grapes

handful of raisins

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/4 tsp. kelp powder or flakes (if you want it to taste a little “ocean-y”)

4 Tbsp. vegan mayonnaise, such as Nasoya brand soy mayonnaise

Method:

Cube tofu into 1/2 squares.  Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine curry powder, scallions, walnuts, grapes, raisins, lemon juice, kelp powder (if using it), and vegan mayonnaise.  Stir to combine.  Fold in the tofu cubes until coated with curry mixture.

Serve on whole grain sandwich bread, whole grain crackers, or as a topping for a hearty mixed greens salad.

Another delicious option is to use tempeh in place of the tofu.  Cut the tempeh into cubes and steam or simmer for about 10 minutes to soften.  Allow to cool and then crumble the tempeh into the curry mixture.

*To press tofu, wrap the block of tofu in a clean dish towel.  Place on a small cutting board.  Place a larger cutting board on top of the tofu, then balance a heavy can or pot on top.  Allow to sit for about 15-20 minutes.  Remove tofu from towel and proceed with recipe.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

September 9, 2010

Although the air is still warm, there is a new scent lingering beneath the familiar one of late summer. There is a lightness to it, this new scent, although it is also ancient and familiar; the headiness of summer blooms radiating rich floral tones in the hottest of days fade back into a coolness lurking just behind each new morning.  The garden, though bounteous, yields a damp aroma of earthiness and brown, if brown has a smell, signaling the plants have nearly finished fulfilling their duties for the season.  The last few tomatoes are turning pink; a couple of cucumbers and summer squash still cling to their vines waiting to be plucked out and made good use of in the kitchen.  A tree or two shows off early color, and the days have quickly grown shorter.

The sun shines, but not with the strength it had in July and August.  Each morning run yields a little less sweat; the miles slip by effortlessly as the early damp coolness brushes my skin.  The ocean is at long last warm, but the beach-goers have all gone home.   A few of us summer stragglers try to catch these last few days if we can, to ride the waves without our wetsuits and loll on our picnic blankets until the time comes to pick up the kids from school.

Even though I love the food summer supplies—- the basil, tomatoes, peaches, watermelon, peppery, leafy greens ready to be cut fresh each evening for salad suppers— I also love the fruits and vegetables that are finally ready in the fall.  Apples, kale, chard, and winter squash smell rich and sweet as they roast in the oven or simmer on the stove.  Today I purchased the first butternut squash of this year’s harvest, and tomorrow, as the day is expected to be cool, will make this delicious soup.  It’s rich and complex in flavor, but easy to make.  It also freezes well.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to double the recipe and put some aside for a lazy winter evening.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, washed and halved length-wise, seeds scooped out.

2 Tbsp. olive oil (I use extra-virgin Greek)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 sweet onion, cut into small dice

2 firm fresh apples, peeled, cored, and chopped coarsely

1 Tbsp. turmeric

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, chopped fine

4 cups vegetable stock

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger root, grated or microplaned

1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

1 cup fresh orange juice

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 ° F.  Oil a cookie sheet or line it with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Place squash cut-side down and roast on the center rack of the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until flesh can be easily pierced with a fork.  Remove squash from the oven and set it aside to cool.

While squash is roasting, saute the onions and garlic in a large stock pot over medium heat until onion is translucent.  Add the apples, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and sage.  Continue to cook for about 3 minutes, or until spices are fragrant.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer and cook until apples are tender, about 8-10 minutes.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from its skin and add it to the stock pot with the rest of the soup. Stir in orange juice, ginger and nutmeg.  Puree until smooth with an immersion blender, or allow soup to cool a bit and puree in blender or food processor in small batches.

Serve with warm whole grain bread.