We zipped home from Claire and Vinny’s wedding through Northern California, days ahead of the forest fires that shut down the I-5 around Redding. Expecting heavy Labor Day traffic and fearing Burning Man overflow, we instead found empty roads and light traffic. Hairpin curves blended into straight freeway lanes and pine forests turned into fur. An overnight with Patty and Jim and into our driveway in time to drop off our bags an hour before the annual Summer Harvest Celebration dinner.
The water in Eld Inlet sparkled under an August-blue sky, Food and Wine-worthy weather. We sharpened our appetites sitting on the front yard next to the Sound, eating toasts with fresh figs and Nancy’s superb tomato jam and everyone’s favorite—blackberry riblets.
Due to our move last year, we’ve recently been tasked with meeting new neighbors and making new friends. Maybe it was easy when we were younger, maybe it was never easy. First there’s the initial chatting up someone new, trying to remember their name, getting the drift of their general vibe, finding out if they love or hate the Yankees, if they talk incessantly about their pets and grandchildren, and whether they are talkers or listeners. Next there’s the awkward first few dates—your place, our place, or neutral territory. Then there’s the time, effort, and planning it takes to create a history with someone.
Our old friends have passed all those tests, met the challenges, overlooked our faults, hired us, welcomed us into their homes for extended periods of time, are familiar with our ups and downs, remember our parents, knew us “when”, were there with ice cream when we needed it, grew old with us, stayed married to each other, and showed up on time for the past forty years. Who needs new friends?
Anyways, walking into Tom and Nancy’s house was like coming home. We knew everyone’s name, we knew their kids, and we easily picked up where we left off. We’re well past the stage of putting on a good face—they all know and accept our regular, old faces. This comfort allows for in-depth conversations about getting a tattoo, skiing, the pros and cons of pickle ball, the upcoming primaries, the mixed bag that is traveling, the pitfalls of airbnbs, working vs. retiring, the health insurance maze, bad and good TV, growing old, death and dying, real estate values, the horrors of finding a good contractor and the joys of raising a child who wants to be a physicist.
The soup was exceptional, the chicken and roasted peaches tender, tart, and tasty, and I left with a bag of green beans, a bar of good Italian chocolate, and a jar of apricot cherry jam. The days may be dwindling down, but we’ll always have Succotash.
Red kuri is a hard-skinned, winter squash that looks like a pumpkin and has a mellow, nutty flavor. Nancy grew a wagonful this year and gave me one—we’ll have soup for dinner soon.
Roasted Red Kuri Squash Soup from The Cook’s Atelier, Beaunne, France
- 3 lb. red kuri squash
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 leaves fresh sage
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
- 6 minced garlic cloves
- 2 Tbs honey
- 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche
- Grated nutmeg for garnish
- Minced chives for garnish