to err is human, a pumpkin is divine

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Youngest Sister (Y.S.) called me one evening only a few days after we’d had a long chat on the phone for her birthday. My immediate reaction was to secretly panic… “oh God please don’t let her want me to go wedding dress shopping”. Yes, it was the sister who is the bride to be.

Sweet relief was mine, when she asked “how do you make your pumpkin soup?… now”. Y.S. understands the recipe evolves over the years. And remembers her mother’s adventurous substitution of cottage cheese for ricotta during the epoch of the low fat version… served as a warming starter at our brother’s winter 21st birthday party.

I’m not sure how I came to be the pumpkin soup guru of the family. Possibly because Dad is open in his dislike for pumpkin… “cow food”. Pumpkin wasn’t much on our menu, and never pumpkin soup.

a Pumpkin by any other name is still a pumpkin
And of course, it didn’t take long for pumpkin soup to hit the supermarket shelves.

My history with pumpkin soup started back in the 80’s. Before Y.S. was born. Back then it hit fashionable restaurant mini-tureens with a swirl of cream and garnish of parsley. Also fashionable were high waisted jeans, shoulder pads, pedal pushers, leggings & legwarmers, and colours so bright you needed to wear shades. Wayfarers of course. My hair was scrunch styled with mousse and ultimately sacrificed to a long curly perm.

Contrary to fashion trends, preparing 80’s pumpkin soup was a plain affair. Women’s Weekly inspired, I took pumpkin soup into my kitchen. I peeled pumpkin and potato pieces and boiled them with a little onion in stock, blended with cream, and served with extra obligatory creamy dollop.

Eventually the advent of dairy fats as cholesterol demons meant cream was ostracised. In the late 80’s early 90’s when I worked at Jenny Craig, low fat ruled my life. Cream substitutes reigned in forms such as evaporated skim milk, and the low fat ricotta cheese (no, not cottage cheese) that found its way into my pumpkin soup. Parsley alone remained as garnish.

Along with the re-advent of Hippy fashion in the mid 90’s when I smoothed my hair and fluffed up my wardrobe with floral dresses, lace blouses, and gypsy tops I dumped Jenny Craig and low fat, and discovered olive oil. My new-age pumpkin soup comprised sautéed peeled pumpkin and potato and onion in olive oil, the softened pieces simmered in stock before being blended into a healthy soup. Somewhere along the way I lost my passion for parsley.

It was also trendy to combine the pumpkin soup with lentils or carrot, adding middle eastern spices to create an even funkier soup. Later in the 90’s Thai became the new black, and armed with a can opener I embellished with coconut cream, a smidgen of curry paste, garnished with coriander and slivers of chili.

While Noughties fashion has been described as a “mash-up” with influences from all over the place and past eras, soup got simple. It was the early Noughties when a co-worker gave me first a sample then a recipe for cauliflower soup. Simmer cauliflower in stock and blend. That’s it. A revelation. Soup was just soup. I made carrot, sometimes carrot & sweet corn, potato & broccoli/mushroom/leek/green pea… but plain soup.

That formula didn’t work for pumpkin. The ultimate pumpkin soup is made with peeled pumpkin pieces, potatoes if desired, onion and garlic tossed in olive oil, roasted quickly in a very hot oven then blended up. I make this when I can persuade the G.O. to undertake all that peeling for me.

A decade later, pumpkin soup, and good food, has undergone a transformation to slow food, real food. Veges are home grown or sourced from a farmers market. Provenance counts both with food and fashion. Authentic, local and sustainable are the benchmarks.

Mostly I make the simplified version… I buy 4 quarters of pumpkin, or for a whole I ask the G.O. to cut it in 4. I have no desire to carry out a D.I.Y. amputation. I scrape out the seeds, give it a good wash then completely wrap each pumpkin piece in foil, shiny side out. I peel the papery outside skin only off 2 large brown onions, and similarly wrap them in foil. Ditto for a couple of garlic cloves – quantity depends on how much garlic flavour you like.

It all goes on a tray and bakes in a hot oven for about an hour, checking and taking out the onion and garlic earlier, when my nose tells me it’s ready. After everything is cool, no oocchyy ouchy fingers, the soft inside bits I scrape into a big saucepan, adding a big glug of olive oil, ground rock or sea salt, white pepper and gradually stock, blending with a stick blender until it’s the smooth glossy consistency I’m aiming for.

What do I wear while I’m doing this? If you read my previous post, you’ve probably guessed right.

Although my recipe is tweaked, I do have a future plan for my pumpkin soup… In it I’m wearing my usual garb: old jeans and a t-shirt, plus work boots and a baseball cap. My nails have dirt under them. The recipe starts with… throw a handful of pumpkin seeds into the back corner of the garden…

Note: Stock = vegetable or chicken.

If too much pumpkin is never enough:
Pumpkin Nook quotes – To err is human, a pumpkin is divine… and more.

43 thoughts on “to err is human, a pumpkin is divine

    dadirri7 said:
    July 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

    such a nostalgic trip through the evolution of pumpkin soup … yes, i remember all of those versions, except the low-fat kind, we never did get into that … and i confess to an eighties long-hair perm too … and guess how we make ours now? … no need to say! brilliant post elladee!!!


      EllaDee responded:
      July 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Thank you. I had to laugh when my sister asked me the question with the emphasis on “now”. I’m guessing your pumpkin soup is made from scratch, seeds in the garden version 🙂 If you peel, I hope you are better with the knife than me, as I still have scars to remind me not to go there.


    Ardysez said:
    July 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I had never heard of nor eaten pumpkin soup until I’d been in Aistralia for quite a few years. I love it and yes, mine has evolved a few times as well… As has my hair from the curly perm! Lol, good fun, thanks elladee!


      EllaDee responded:
      July 21, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      The timing of pumpkin soup in Australia coincided close to your arrival I think. It was new to all of us. Now embraced as a true Aussie food… I’ve lost count of my pumpkin soup and damper dining experiences… except of course for my Dad who just loves the damper, only, preferably with currants and ‘cocky’s joy’.
      I’m starting to feel less bad about the curly perm… seems I wasn’t the only one to succumb 🙂


    Marianne said:
    July 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    OH yes, it looks as though we ALL had the long curly perm! Thank goodness things have moved on.

    I think you have developed a much better way of pumpkin soup making these days, EllaDee 🙂


      EllaDee responded:
      July 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I agree with both 🙂 The 80’s pumpkin soup and hair styles are best left in the vaults of history 🙂


    safia said:
    July 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Sounds like I’m stuck in the 90s with my version of pumpkin soup (at least my hair evolved) so I will try your current version – the pre-roasting has got to add flavour, no?


      EllaDee responded:
      July 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      At least all our hair evolved… I’m so thankful for that. Available time is really what evolved my soup… chop, oil, roast, blend. My other sister told me about a great soup, baking whatever veges are left in the fridge crisper in the same way, and blend them up. Great for weekday lunches 🙂


    roughseasinthemed said:
    July 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I’ve never even bought pumpkin let alone made or eaten pumpkin soup. Which may possibly be the best way to eat it as it has that soft mushy texture anyway. My neighbour does a neat recipe with a spanish squash where she dices it up and sautés it with garlic and spices. That’s tolerable. But not enough to make me go out and buy some.

    I didn’t have the long curly perm. I did have something of a Farrah flick though. As seen in my graduation pic over on everypic. I don’t know anyone who had a long perm in fact. Or even long hair.
    I liked shoulder pads though. And leggings. I still like leggings.

    If there was a hippy era in the nineties, it certainly by-passed me. Probably because I was still in power suits in my ambitious career mode. I’m not sure when I realised soup could taste good if it was made simply, but the idea of putting ingredients in pan, cooking them and whizzing them up, seemed rather intelligent to me, so it quickly caught on. Why make something difficult when it can be easy? Or even, soup doesn’t have to be hard either.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      I would have loved a Farrah flick but sadly my hair just wouldn’t cooperate.
      The Spanish squash recipes sounds lovely – I have made in the past, but you need to do it outside and on the bbq sideburner, neither of which I currently have, a chilli pumpkin stir fry made with sesame oil, fish or soy sauce, garlic… and chilli. It tastes divine but the cooking smell lingers for days.
      I had a few padded shoulder suits but the hippy style appealed so much more, as did the simple homemade soups over networking power dinners 🙂


    Vicky said:
    July 21, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Your reply to Ardysez about pumpkin soup being true Aussie food is probably correct.
    Before I visited Oz in 2002, the only use I’d ever had for a pumpkin was to make my girls lanterns for Halloween.
    The couple I stayed with lived a very healthy lifestyle in the Adelaide Hills.
    C was always cooking and her speciality was pumpkin soup.
    It was totally scrumptious, and I came home armed with her recipe.
    I struggled to find the Kent pumpkins she used, perhaps known by a different name here, so ended up buying ones that looked similar.
    It was more than likely my cooking, but my soup didn’t taste like C’s soup, so after a couple of attempts I gave up 😦
    I still have her recipe, so may dig it out and give it another try.
    As for big hair, I tried a perm in the 70’s when Afro styles were in……..never again!
    I have one photo taken at the time….never to be revealed 😳


      EllaDee responded:
      July 22, 2013 at 10:18 am

      As I was doing a little background research I realised it is the case that pumpkin soup appears to be more popular in Australia than many other places – intriguing.
      I also prefer Kent pumpkins but have used all kinds, and butternut is very popular. Pumpkin soup is a funny thing, as the pumpkin varies depending in where and how it’s grown, and I often need to vary the salt/sugar I add to bring out the best in the soup.
      I’m glad we have another member of the perm survivors group whose photos are closely guarded. There are a couple of mine from the past where I’m hard pressed to believe it’s me 🙂


    Eha said:
    July 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Oh, I love this ‘historical’ tale both of fashions AND pumpkin soup. Altho’ N European born it seems to have been a delicious part of my life here since childhood in all your variations but shall try your newest one tomorrow [yes, it honestly was on the menu!]!! And I never had a perm [Farah Fawcettt look: of course! With blonde streaked hair of a dozen shades 🙂 !] and still love leggings and definitely do things low-fat!!!!


      EllaDee responded:
      July 22, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I hope you enjoy your pumpkin soup – the weather is perfect. I still have a couple of containers in the freezer of it, for emergency weeknight dinners. I should have persevered with the curling iron and the Farrah Flick myself… the only time anyone came close to telling me I looked like a movie star was when I had a very short bob, and was likened to Doris Day!


    Kourtney Heintz said:
    July 22, 2013 at 2:47 am

    I love how you took us on the evolution of pumpkin soup. It’s so cool to look back on different decades and see how intertwined fashion and food were. 🙂


      EllaDee responded:
      July 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

      It was interesting for me to think back on where I was, what I was doing and wearing each time the recipe evolved. I like pumpkin soup but I have to admit the reason for it’s longevity in our house as opposed to other types is that it’s the G.O.’s favourite. I prefer the cauliflower but he hates it.


        Kourtney Heintz said:
        August 10, 2013 at 1:35 am

        I gotta say I’m with the G.O. on this one. Pumpkin soup rocks. 🙂


          EllaDee responded:
          August 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm

          As far as I know, unless I’m feeding my Dad, pumpkin soup is a fail-safe option 🙂


    davidprosser said:
    July 22, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Though I’ve no doubt the progression of the pumpkins was awe inspiring Ella. what kept me glued to the page was the Confessions of the Curlies and If I’m honest I think you should organise a fashion photo shoot of all you youngsters who succumbed to the Eighties. A then and now scene showing who kept the faith and the poodle look. xxxx Hug Hugs xxxx


      EllaDee responded:
      July 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

      I had a feeling you’d suggest something like that, so I thought about it, and… good idea, would be entertaining for you but oohh terribly embarrassing for us 🙂 Old photos are too scary. Those hairdressers have a lot to answer for. I think all of us here who admitted to curly perms/afros have thankfully reverted to more natural styling. When I go through 80’s photos both from a fashion and life point of view my most common response is “what on earth was I thinking?” I feel so much better knowing I wasn’t alone 🙂


    Lori D said:
    July 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Love the decade fashion changes along with soup changes. I think I’d be hard-pressed to find an actual pumpkin where I live in any month besides October. All I think I could find would be the pumpkin mush from a can for pie baking. This sounds really good and unique. I’d love to try it.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 23, 2013 at 6:14 am

      I’m guessing there’s not too many Australian restaurants in the US but you never know you make come across pumpkin soup somewhere, or maybe visit one day. I’m unsure about pumpkin in a can for pies but I can sort of imagine it, we eat something similar called Gramma Pie, which is a marrow… and done well, it’s delicious 🙂


    diannegray said:
    July 23, 2013 at 6:27 am

    Pumpkin soup is my favourite! I love just your recollections, hair and fashion changes 😉 We always have a vine growing somewhere in the yard and I just love adding bacon pieces, curry paste and cream to mine 😀


      EllaDee responded:
      July 23, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Thank you. Bacon! Mmmmm. I have a couple of spare tubs of pumpkin soup plus all those ingredients… sounds good. And, it’s chilly enough here to be perfect soup weather 🙂


    metan said:
    July 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I love this, fashion and soup in parallel. I can imagine that whenever you are dining out and have pumpkin soup the flavours used by the cook immediately propel your mind back to the kind of fashion (horrible or otherwise) that you were wearing when that particular flavour of soup was fashionable itself. 😀

    We like pumpkin soup here although I am definitely not a soup guru. I do like chopping it myself though. I dig the knife in and slam the lot into the board as though I am chopping wood. BAM! Bits fly everywhere, messy but fun. Kids not allowed in the kitchen at the time!

    I would like my recipe to start with “go out to the garden” too. Perhaps I should get some seeds off the FIL next time.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 23, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      When I think of some of the things that were fashionable to wear, and to eat over the years, I cringe. When I think of the 70’s I never want to eat another vol-u-vent, or bowl of diced tinned fuit salad with half melted icecream. I hate corduroy and cheesecloth. But I still quite like Apricot Chicken and Corn Relish Dip 🙂
      I have a 25+ year old scar on the base of my left index finger from a pumpkin cut gone wild. It reminds me not to go there. I am allocated a couple of not too big not too sharp kitchen knives, and the rest are the G.O.’s jurisdiction.
      Even now at TA I’ll throw pumpkin seeds up the back… occasionally LHS neighbour will go easy with the mower, we’ll get enough rain, and we’ll get a vine but without being there it’s hit & miss.


    Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said:
    July 24, 2013 at 6:32 am

    The nice thing about being the same age and having lived in the same city as you is that when I read posts like this, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I remember the pumpkin soup and the shoulder pads and the bad perms. I remember the advent of olive oil, and the addition of lentils when Middle Eastern flavours became trendy. And like you, I now make roast pumpkin soup, because I find it has such a better flavour than the regular version. Good move on the cut pumpkin too – I was once up at 4am and decided making pumpkin soup was a great idea, and I cut straight through the fleshy part of my hand under my pinky. I remember being surprised how much I looked like steak.. 😉


      EllaDee responded:
      July 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Burns and cuts are an occupational hazard for those of us who like to cook what we eat 🙂
      Sometimes, yes, you have to be there to appreciate a thing. I noticed from the comments that the 80’s curly perms were more univerally encountered than pumpkin soup 🙂


    philosophermouseofthehedge said:
    July 26, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Could this be any better? A twirl down fashion lane accompanied by pumpkin soup. A seriously original/ creative post.
    I’m book marking this so I can reread later for the pumpkin soup ideas – giggling too much over the clothes and hair right now


      EllaDee responded:
      July 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Thank you 🙂 Ah yes, when I think of how much time and money I spent at the hairdressers in my youth, trying to look like someone/thing I wasn’t it just makes me shake my head. And the fashion… the 80’s was an embarrassment. But I’m in a happy pumpkin soup space now, so all is well 🙂


    Leanne Cole said:
    July 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Matt from Masterchef had a great recipe recently and I tried it and it was really nice, it had apple instead of potato. It was really nice.


    mybrightlife said:
    August 17, 2013 at 3:27 am

    This is an amazing post. A lovely history shared from such a fun perspective! And, I had never, until now heard of the noughties – seriously. don’t tell anyone.


      EllaDee responded:
      August 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Thank you. I won’t tell 🙂 Just yesterday, reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, she shares her pumpkin soup recipe, now I have another to try.


        mybrightlife said:
        August 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

        Love Barbara Kingsolver. I tend to use butternut instead of pumpkin but I think it is time to start exploring a bit more..


          EllaDee responded:
          August 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm

          In Aus we class butternut as a pumpkin, rather than a squash, and it’s great to use for soup 🙂


    Cecile said:
    November 10, 2017 at 5:06 am

    Interesting that in Australia butternut squash is in the pumpkin category. And in Canada the fat content of cream is listed in percentages…while is Britain (and Malta etc… and I bet in Australia) cream is listed a whole different way… for example ‘double cream’. ; o )
    I tracked down this recipe base idea from seeing your post on The Kitchen Gardens – is sounds sooo yummy. So… I adore butternut squash, so I’ll use that.
    On another note… I haven’t been blogging – or following – for about a year but I hope to get back to it soon. I remember when you first considering moving out of your flat in the city. I’m so pleased to see how happy you guys are!
    Me – I moved to beautiful – and warm – St. Augustine, FL. !! ; o )


      EllaDee's responded:
      November 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm

      I think our food languages are morphing but have a few variations still, eg Aussies refer to canteloupes as rockmelons! Lovely to hear from you, and that you are happy in sunny Florida!

      Liked by 1 person

    Cecile said:
    November 10, 2017 at 5:15 am

    PS Butternut Squash soup is very popular at restaurants… but not so much ‘down south’ here in the States. When I prepare butternut soup I cut the ‘squash’ in half, don’t wrap it and bake it skin side down. Just another way of getting to the same end! ; o )


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