The dangers of a comfortable chair.

DSC_0178Miss Hawks taught me English at the Bement School in 7th and 8th grades. She was a proper woman, neatly and well dressed, her hair pulled back, with glasses on the end of her nose. Class was held in the library, a small house that was moved from the Swift River Vally before it was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir in 1939.

Class was held in the small and cozy main room. It smelled of old books and held a mismatch of chairs, including one plush, green leather arm chair. When the bell rang at the end of the prior class, ten of us would run as fast as we could in hopes of securing that coveted, comfortable seat.

The library, warm and inviting, was a perfect retreat in the winter, just the place for diagraming sentences or reading our weekly essay assignments out loud. The chair, however, became a calculated risk. With winter light streaming in the window, the cozy chair lulled more than one of us to sleep, which never went over well with Miss Hawks’ strict sense of propriety.

I was searching for exactly that feeling, a warm and comfortable escape from a grey cold day, when I sliced red onions and placed them in a soup pot the other night. Bright ginger and sweet carrots, both thinly sliced to cook quickly, simmered in chicken stock, before the final addition of fresh pumpkin purée, leftover from Thanksgiving. The end result was just like the chair in Miss Hawks’ library. This time, however, it was perfectly alright when I dozed off after dinner.

Gingered carrot and pumpkin soup

Serves 6

Shaving the carrots cuts back on cooking time to make this a weeknight soup.


  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2″ ginger, minced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 large carrots sliced into ribbons with a peeler or mandolin
  • 2 cups cooked pumpkin, like Hubbard squash
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Toasted pumpkin seed oil*

*Toasted pumpkin seed oil is a bold and wonderful garnish for soups, salads and even ice cream. Use sparingly, just as you would toasted sesame oil. If you can’t find pumpkin seed oil, try toasted sesame or walnut oil.


  • Warm oil over medium heat in a 4 quart saucepan. Add onion and cook 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add ginger and cook 5 minutes longer.
  • Add stock and bring to a simmer. Add carrots and cook, partially covered until it is soft enough to purée. Add pumpkin and cook 5 minutes longer.
  • Purée soup until very smooth and return to saucepan over medium heat. Cook through for 5 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, cinnamon and a splash of sherry vinegar. Serve garnished with a few drops of toasted pumpkin seed oil.

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