Nourished by a Spicy Pumpkin Soup and So Much More

Day 28 - Spicy pumpkin soup

Although out-of-breath and with quivering legs, I managed to brace myself against the wind. I had made it to the top of the dune, aptly named, “8-minutes of Hell.” I have to admit that with the sand packed down by the winter rains, it wasn’t nearly as trying of a climb as in the summer when the sand gives way at every point of pressure. So, perhaps for just that day, it should have been called, “6-minutes of Hell.” I yanked my hood up and drew tight the draw-strings. The wind was blowing so hard up there it was howling. Whistling through my ears even.

I steadied myself and breathed deeply. My eyes cautiously peered over the edge of the sharp cliffs of red rock that plunged straight down to the ocean only a hop away from where I stood. Those cliffs that make-up Cape Kiwanda. My eyes then followed the beach northward toward Tierra del Mar. I took in the great expanse of sand. I took in the waves. So forceful. Unrelenting. Letting me know my place in the world.

The "other" Haystack Rock
Carefully, I turned around to face the wind. To face where I had just been. The beach I had walked on. The climb I had made. No sun today. Just low gray clouds and bits of rain. But, there, off in the distance, growing smaller and smaller as they walked away from where I stood, I could see them. These women. These women that I have grown so fond of. I watched as they walked in groups of 2…3. I watched as one would splinter off and they would regroup into 4. Walking. Talking. Sharing. Pondering. I thought about how each of us, so different from one another, were brought together years ago due to our shared love of books.

sand dollars
Each year we gather for a weekend to plan our year of reading. We come loaded down with books, reviews, notes. And while the books are the catalyst for our gathering…we really come for much more than that. We come bearing food. Lots and lots of food. Homemade soups – a white bean and ham, a vegetable, chicken, a spicy pumpkin – served with warmed ciabatta bread sprinkled with kosher salt. Salads of baby greens topped with nuts and dried berries, smoked salmon and goat cheese – all tossed with homemade vinaigrettes. A decadent crab and artichoke dip. Breakfast brings freshly baked chocolate chip scones, blueberry muffins, a sinful coffee cake, scrambled-up eggs and even, an apple pie. And, of course, for dessert, these chocolate chip cookies, which we moaned over and debated whether or not they are the perfect chocolate chip cookies. Do they have the correct “crunch to goo” ratio? We share our wine, our clementines, our tins of nuts. And, while we eat, drink, read, and walk, we also share stories…about ourselves, our families, our lives. And somehow, this sharing of stories…of taking the time to listen and of being given the chance to be heard…nourishes us. Nourishes us differently from the food. This sharing allows us to go home feeling…peaceful and yet reinvigorated about our role as a mother, friend, daughter, wife.

pumpkin cans
I recently came across a quote by author Sue Monk Kidd that struck a chord with me about women and the way we group together, whether over books, food, wine, or tupperware, to share our stories. She wrote, “The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed…the story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning. As I told my stories of fear, awakening, struggle and transformation and had them received, heard, and validated by other women, I found healing. I also needed to hear other women’s stories in order to see and embrace my own. Sometimes another woman’s story becomes a mirror that shows me a self I haven’t seen before. When I listen to her tell it, her experience quickens and clarifies my own. Her questions rouse mine. Her conflicts illumine my conflicts. Her resolutions call forth my hope. Her strengths summon my strengths. All of this can happen even when our stories and our lives are very different.”

pot of spicy pumpkin soup
When I return from one of these weekends and am at home, carrying on with life as before, I find myself thinking warmly about what was said. What we laughed over. What we spoke earnestly about. What brought tears. And, I go on and carry around the bits of wisdom given freely to me by these women. And, for that, I am a better person.
Spicy Pumpkin Soup
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Soup
Serves: a large pot-full
About a month ago my friend, Christine, served me this spicy pumpkin soup. I have not been able to stop thinking about it and told her I just had to have the recipe...she kindly fulfilled my request. This soup is savory and definitely spicy. To make a vegetarian version swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. The beautiful thing about this soup is you probably have all of the ingredients hanging around in the pantry right now.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, 3-4 cloves, minced
  • ⅛-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1-3 pinches ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 15-oz cans pumpkin puree
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Optional toppings: pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds), sour cream or crème fraîche, diced and cooked bacon or pancetta
  1. In a large soup pot, melt/heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium low or even low and add onions and garlic and sauté them until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in your garlic, red pepper flakes, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne pepper. How much of the red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper you use depends on how spicy you want it to be.
  3. Whisk in your canned pumpkin and chicken/vegetable broth. Bring soup to a boil and immediately reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Whisk in milk and stir until heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Let cool a bit and then pull our your hand-held immersion blender and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can leave it as is, or carefully puree the soup in a blender.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with a small dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche and a sprinkle of pepitas and bacon/pancetta crumbles. Serve with fresh bread for dipping. Enjoy.


  1. Mrs. Ditter says:

    Ah, Carrie. Beautifully written. Mwah!

  2. Courtney Cook Hopp says:

    I could use a little girl weekend nourishment . . . wonderful words!

  3. Christy Bennett says:

    The truth so eloquently written.

  4. What a beautiful experience
    to share! These images so
    wonderfully accompany your
    story. I MUST try out this
    recipe. Glad I found your blog.

  5. Thank you all. So glad you enjoyed the post.