Have you ever noticed that your stomach knows when the seasons change? I always know it’s fall when I start craving warm bowls of chili, pot roast, homemade spaghetti sauce and red wine. These culinary favorites warm me from the inside out. They are my comfort foods in the fall. Two years ago I acquired a “new” fall comfort food that surprised the socks off my cold toes: butternut squash. Maybe that one was already on your comfort food list, but the reason it surprised me was that it had always been on the “other” food list. There are always two lists in the world of food – a LIKE list and a DON’T LIKE list. Usually the DON’T LIKE list is written in childhood when we learn all the food choices. I learned that I didn’t like butternut squash one fateful fall evening when I was required to sit at the dinner table until I finished it. I finally choked it down with a warm glass of milk, motivated by not wanting to miss the beginning of The Love Boat. From then on, butternut squash was written in permanent marker on my DON’T LIKE list.
Flash forward to a dinner party in 2007. The menu included butternut squash, I was feeling daring and polite, and before I knew it I had a pretty little orange pile on my plate. After noshing on the other goodies on the plate I decided to give the squash a go; after all, no one was going to make me eat it all. An amazing taste filled my mouth hinting the presence of butter, brown sugar and nutmeg in a creamy, blended butternut squash! Before I knew it the squash was gone and I was going for seconds. That was it: at that moment squash moved from the DON’T LIKE list to the LIKE list. Of course, I had to ask my girlfriend where she got the recipe. She said it was one our favorite cooks, The Barefoot Contessa, found in her Family Style Cookbook, (recipe for Mashed Butternut Squash, page 126 if you want to give it a try). Later I mused about all the years I had missed this lovely flavor and though that maybe if The Barefoot Contessa had been my mother this tragedy would have never occurred. Of course, I’m sure she would have made something I didn’t like…maybe.