Roasted butternut and split pea soup
It’s the season for reflection, for looking back on the year just passing and taking a reckoning of all you’ve done or left undone. The wise men of newspapers and magazines are making lists of all the worst and best things that have happened over the course of a year, and Facebook’s computers are compiling photos of the most important events of our lives for us to share with our friends. And what is the phrase that has been stuck in my head with contrary steadfastness these past few days? “Don’t look back.” I’m unaccountably fascinated with this idea at the moment. It is, of course, one of Satchel Paige’s rules for longevity, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” And D.A. Pennebaker borrowed the phrase from Paige for the title of his beautiful 1967 (1967!) movie about Bob Dylan. And Bob Dylan himself used the phrase in his song She Belongs to Me, “She’s an artist, she don’t look back.” It’s an idea that shows up in myths from all over the world. Orpheus leading Eurydice out of Hades, Lot’s wife fleeing Sodom. If you look back you’ll be punished for disobeying a rule, for lacking trust or faith, for seeing God at his awe-ful job. But what does it mean? What does it mean? It can’t mean that we shouldn’t sift through our memories, and revisit people and places from our past life. We’d be nothing without our memories. Our future would be meaningless without our past. It can’t mean that. Is it spoken by someone who fears aging, like I do, and is frightened to see how fast it has all gone behind them, and how rapidly it will fly before them? Is Satchel telling us that we shouldn’t let fear of what has gone before frighten us about what’s to come? And what
is gaining on us? What slouching beast? These are the questions we wrestle with on sleepless nights. Today I read the passage from Virgil’s Aeneid called “The visit to the underworld.” This was written more than 2000 years ago. Get your mind around that. I’m not sure that people have changed all that much, and I find it a strange comfort to look back all that way into someone else’s life, and see echoes of my own.
In the center is a giant and shady elm-tree, spreading branches like arms, full of years. False Dreams, so it is often said, take the tree for their home, and cling everywhere beneath its leaves.
Here’s The Temptations with Don’t Look Back. We’re gonna leave all our troubles behind.
This soup! It was tasty because butternut squash and yellow split peas are ridiculously tasty. Plus it has nice spices in it. It takes quite a while to cook the split peas, or it did for me, so plan ahead!
1 smallish butternut squash
2 T olive oil
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
1 cup yellow split peas
2 sage leaves, chopped
1 t fresh rosemary
1 t powdered ginger
1 t smoked paprika
1 t coriander powder
1 t red pepper flakes
2 T butter (unless you’re vegan!)
juice of half a lemon, or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face down on a piece of foil on a baking tray. Bake until so soft that it collapses when you press on the skin, maybe 45 minutes, but more or less depending on the size of the squash. Let cool till you can handle it, then peel the flesh from the skin and purée.
In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook until the garlic starts to brown, about a minute. Add the bay leaves and cardamom pods and herbs, stir to coat. Add the split peas, stir and fry for about a minute. Add the pureed squash and stir to combine everything. Add enough water to Cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover, and cook until the peas are soft enough for you. It could take up to an hour and a half.
Add the butter, if using, and the lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper, and eat!