Our laughs rose above the crackling fire, we gasped for breath laughing over something so simple and stupid. We sat around the tall bonfire for the better part of two nights, drinking champagne and catching up, weaving stories in the air, as I imagine witches would when they would convene a coven.
“Wait, you have to let me finish this story about the squirrel flipping off the feeder!”
“I can’t stop laughing, I’m going to probably pee myself.”
“Did you really just say that?”
It had been a long time since the three of us had been at the same place at the same time. It’s not just the long-drawn-out beat of the Covid drum that kept us apart, instead of life just squarely gets in the way of regular visits. The three of us have been friends for the better part of 2 decades, meeting accidentally as you do in your twenties, bonding over drinks and laughs, and then cementing long friendships of celebrations, travels, support and listening when one of us needed something.
We hold girls’ weekends sacred. Or at least, we used to. These days, it’s harder to coordinate calendars around kids’ schedules, Covid-19 and work crises. Truthfully, we had been struggling to launch a proper girls’ weekend prior to the shutdown and then used it as an excuse for the past two years of not just being together. Together is the key. Two of us live in the same neighborhood, and I live 3 hours north. It really doesn’t matter anymore about proximity or lack thereof, it’s just hard to take the time to simply be.
We have always prided ourselves for being there when one of us has a moment. The moments could be a milestone birthday, a pet passing, a partner doing something supremely stupid, or in my case, a series of surgeries that made it really hard to go anywhere. We showed up for each other, each of us carving out the time to do so. Lately, though, life has just shifted. One of the trio, married with two sports-playing teenage boys, has a busy career as a CPA. The other, married, no kids, a CFO of a large medical group. And then there is me. Single, a rotating door of men over the years and at least one pup at my side at all times with a job that keeps the chaos barely unmanaged long enough to go out on a date, much less make time to go away for a long weekend.
Something shifted though over the holidays. We all missed that connection. Our traditions. Our time together. We threw out some dates and made half-assed plans. Truthfully, at the top of the month, I didn’t know if we were going to make it happen, but earlier this past week, the texts began. Our coordination of food, drinks, and sleeping arrangements. These are the friends that you don’t have to do anything but make sure that the fridge is filled with cheese and wine. And maybe some fruit so we can be healthy.
In anticipation of their arrival on Friday, I decided to make a soup, something warm and comforting that we could all instantly sit around the table and discuss. I decided that Butternut Squash soup would be the perfect kick-off to the weekend- light, delicious, and filled with aromatic spices that smell so damn good that you are greeted with the aroma when you walk in the door.
“Tell me you have bubbles chilling”
“GEORGE don’t jump!”
Within minutes of their arrival, things fell back into a normal cadence. They unloaded their car, my pup George lost his fool mind at the opportunity to have two more humans to spoil him and we sat down. At my dining room table, like we have done hundreds of times before, but not in such a long time. Thankfully, there was no gap in conversation, we just all sat down with a bowl of warm soup and started talking. Our plans for the weekend were to do as little as possible. Leave the house only if absolutely needed. We were going to eat, drink and take naps. Naps were the only thing officially “planned” for the weekend.
The words and the champagne flowed freely over the weekend. Each of us, is heavy with thoughts and worries. Each, dealing with interesting mid-life challenges. Each of us is weary with the ongoing pandemic weighing over our heads and impacting all aspects of our lives. Despite the worries, fears, and anxiety, we persisted. We drank enough bubbles to keep the spirits mostly high, the laughs loud and the stories flowing. We started planning our friend’s fiftieth birthday celebration, as she is the first of our group to cross into that new decade. We talked about heading to wine country in the spring. We yearn for connection and to regain our old cadence once more.
They left this morning and my house became shockingly silent. Just as quickly as they blew into my house on Friday, they left this morning, to go back to reality and life as they know it. I settled back into my quiet routine of life with just my pup and a pile of sheets and towels. I opened the fridge to find a bit of soup left to warm up and eat for a light supper. I was comforted by both the delicious soup and the memories of a weekend well executed.
Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
1 cup of chopped leeks- green parts only
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Healthy pinch of Chinese Five Spice
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper and sauté until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the squash and cook until it begins to soften, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the sage, rosemary, and 5 Spice. Stir and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant, then add 3 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly and grab your immersion blender, blend until smooth. If your soup is too thick, add up to 1 cup more broth and blend. Season to taste and serve with parsley and pepitas
Yes, the color of this soup is “special” but the taste is amazing. Get over it and get into a bowl.