Farmers' Market Share: Pumpkin Soup and Pretentious Media



I'm not sure when I first became obsessed with food, but I can tell you about my history with pretentious media. On both counts, I blame my parents.

My mom is an awesome cook. I have to give many thanks to her ability to accommodate my vegetarianism throughout high school and college, and her subsequent ability to adapt to my father's turn as a vegan a few years back. One day, I'll want to cook a brisket, and when I ask my mom how she does it, she will tell me some sort of vague instructions that have no times or requirements, only intuition.

I started reading the New Yorker when my parents first subscribed. It started off slow, with the cartoons that make you go "heh" instead of "ha!" Then, I moved on to the fiction, where I first discovered some of the authors who would become my very favorites. At some point, I shelled out for my own subscription. Now, I'm totally obsessed. This week, I got the food issue, which I consider exceptionally well-timed, considering we're entering the month of complete food obsession.

My early NPR experience was trying to listen to WBUR through the static in the car with my parents. I guess we can count the Car Talk column that ran in our local paper, too. But it really took off sometime after moving here, since we never got cable. Anyway, I really love Lynn Rosetto Casper, host of the Splendid Table. She's like my mother calling to tell me about the fennel salad she made and how great it was. I love Casper's ability to pull recipes out of her ass when callers need advice for ingredients like juniper berries or rose water. Because those people are me when I go shopping at Jay's International while hungry.

We all have our detested NPR personalities, though. I draw the line at Zorba Paster, because he has an annoying voice. I'm also not a huge fan of Terry Gross -- although she did have Ruth Reichl on right after Gourmet folded, and Reichl shared her pumpkin soup recipe.

Reichl's pumpkin-soup recipe was perfect for me. First, I love recipes like my mom's brisket that you can just throw together without a list of quantities. It's wonderfully elemental. Second, I had a cute little pumpkin sitting on my counter, and I needed a use other than baking. And with Thanksgiving coming up, I had a reason to make something that I probably would feel disgusting about eating for a week.

Admittedly, I haven't made this yet. But I do trust someone like Reichl, and I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong with anything baked in a pumpkin. It will impress your cranky aunt!

Ruth Reichl's Pumpkin Soup
1 smallish pumpkin, about the size of your head, but not big enough to fit your head inside

A goodly amount of one of the Swiss cheeses, grated (Gruyere, Appenzeller, whatever -- and yes, she does call for a goodly amount)

Loaf of good French bread, sliced and toasted

Heavy cream (can be mixed half and half with veggie or chicken stock, if you're a wuss)

Salt, pepper, and nutmeg (I think fresh sage would also be good here)
1. Cut open the pumpkin like a jack o' lantern and scoop out the innards. You can roast the seeds later.

2. Fill the pumpkin with alternating layers of toast and cheese until almost full, then fill with the cream and season liberally with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Replace the top of the pumpkin and bake at 300 degrees for about 2 hours.

4. Serve in the pumpkin. Scoop out some of the flesh with each serving.

Alissa Nelson is a graduate student and compulsive buyer of cookbooks. She enjoys scouring seed catalogs and thrift stores alike. Every Wednesday she seeks the bounty of local farmers' markets -- and then cooks it.

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