Caroline’s recipe for creamy squash-apple cider soup with spiced pepitas. Photo courtesy: Caroline Ishii
OTTAWA — With the days getting colder, my body craves warming foods.
Food nourishes our bodies but also our hearts, enabling us to time travel through snapshots of our lives in the past.
Seeing Swedish Fish gummy candies reminds me of riding my tricycle and savouring the chewy candy in the sunshine. The wafting aroma of turkey reminds me of our Thanksgiving dinner gatherings at my Aunt Helen’s house. And a bowl of good soup reminds me of the times I stopped and savoured life and how comforted I was by it.
When we slow down, these are the moments that we may remember most when looking back on our lives. When our lives are in slow motion, we can capture the experience. Are you too busy, and is your life going too fast? There is a simple solution to this.
Buddhist teacher Martin Aylward in Tricycle, an online Buddhist magazine, explains his experience of slowing down. He says, “I felt more spacious, less rushed. I entered into that mysterious and counterintuitive truth that when you slow down, you have more time, which doesn’t mean your clock moves any differently, but time is actually subjective. Rushing reinforces the sense of time pressure. You feel squeezed, busy, harassed by time. Slowing down conduces to ease, gentleness, and relaxation.”
I love how I feel when practicing yoga alongside the other students with a good teacher and the relaxed bliss I feel after class. Focusing on the teacher’s instructions, my body, and my breath, I return to the here and now and am grateful.
In a Psychology Today online article, neuroscientist E. Paul Zehr says, “Deliberately trying to move slowly and then actually achieving those slow actions may correspondingly slow our perception of time.”
He says this may explain the peaceful feeling after practicing ancient arts like Tai Chi, which requires slower, deliberate movements to be in the moment.
I’ve begun to realize that being present is the ultimate practice of self-compassion. I grew up thinking that more is better. I used to criticize myself for what I did or didn’t do or worry about things that could happen in the future. These are clues that I am not home with myself anymore. This attitude does not serve me or the world around me well because I am not as patient or loving.
I enjoy checking off my daily to-dos, which are always too long, but when I look back on my life in my last moments on this planet, I wonder what I will remember the most.
In the bestselling memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Bronnie Ware writes how her life transformed through the regrets of the dying people she cared for as a palliative care nurse. While spending time with patients as they prepared to die, Ware noticed common themes when she questioned them about their regrets or anything they would do differently. Here are the five most common regrets of the dying:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was the most common regret, especially for women, says Ware.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This came from every male patient whom Ware nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings to keep peace with others, says Ware. As a result, they never became who they were truly capable of becoming, and many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Ware says there were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier. This is a surprisingly common one, says Ware. Many only realized in the end that happiness is a choice. They stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. Fear of change had them pretending to others and their selves that they were content.
When my time comes—as it will for all of us, there is no “get-out-of-jail-free” card—I hope I will be flooded by happy memories of a life lived fully and well.
The times I paused to enjoy a coffee or share a delicious meal with a good friend. My walks in the forest with my dog and a fellow nature-lover in all seasons. The moments of unexpected laughter with someone where we couldn’t stop laughing. The throughline is a connection with myself and others and the time to savour it fully. Ware says, “It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.”
She says, “Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”
A hearty soup is one of my favourite foods that brings comfort and happiness in the colder months. It’s not only the satisfaction of eating it, but the wafting steam is instant aromatherapy, the bowl warming my chilled fingers, and the sound of crackers or crusty bread crumbling into it: a complete sensory experience that envelops me like a warm blanket. And sharing soup with others provides double happiness.
I’m providing the recipe for one of my favourite soups this time of year: Butternut Squash-Apple Cider soup. I love sprinkling spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on top for spice and crunch. I provide a recipe for this, too. Both recipes are from my book Canadian Vegan Recipes, published in Japanese by Kirasienne in Tokyo, Japan. If you cook and eat the soup mindfully, you might just remember the experience in your folder of happy moments.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give thanks for the abundant harvest and the people we love. I am grateful to you for taking the time to read my column. I hope my words and recipes nourish and comfort you, like a warm blanket I place over you for the colder days ahead.
With gratitude and love, Caroline.
Yield: 6 servings or more
2 pounds butternut squash (about 3 cups squash; you can use other squash such as kabocha squash)
1 onion cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons curry powder/garam masala
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
A few stalks of celery, washed and roughly chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 ¼ cup apple cider
Ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Cut the squash in half, remove seeds, rub with olive oil and salt, and roast, cut side down, about 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender.
When cool enough, scrape the flesh from the skin and set aside. If using kabocha squash, you can keep the skin on.
3. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until softened.
4. Add curry powder/garam masala and cayenne pepper and stir well for a few minutes. Add the celery, squash, apples, stock, and apple cider and bring to a boil.
5. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until everything is very tender. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Season with salt and black pepper. Delicious sprinkled with spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on top.
1/3 cup natural pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F. Toss the pumpkin seeds with olive oil, sea salt, and spices in a bowl. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp and evenly brown (about 15 to 20 minutes, but depends on the oven), turning often. Remove and set aside to cool. Store in a jar.