The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! Buy local, buy handmade, or buy nothing!

Yes, I can criticize Safeway, but I’m still sucked in by their advertising. This billboard has been all over town in the past couple of weeks, so I decided I just had to try making pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell to bring for Thanksgiving this year.

I waited until the last minute, and then couldn’t find a big enough pumpkin last night at Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods. So I thought, “Hmm… Safeway’s the one advertising the soup in the pumpkin. They must have the right sized pumpkin.” Turns out, Safeway didn’t have any pumpkins at all. And when I asked a clerk where the pumpkins were, he gave me a really funny face and said, “Lady, Halloween’s been over!”

“I know Halloween’s over,” I protested, “but tomorrow’s Thanksgiving! You don’t have pumpkins for pumpkin pie?”

“Oh! You want the pumpkin in the can!” he exclaimed.

How could I respond? This is the world that Safeway and other mainstream grocery stores have created. Real pumpkins are for jack-o-lanterns and billboards. But we can’t conceive of eating them unless they’ve been processed and canned. So I used a few smaller pumpkins from Whole Foods instead, and I’ll just refill the small pumpkin tureen from the pot. Here’s how my creation turned out:

Let me know if you want the recipe/directions and I’ll post them later. (Regarding the plastic used, one cap from a glass container of Straus organic whipping cream and the plastic coating a 1/2 pint of buttermilk. That’s it.) I’ve got to get ready to leave for our friend’s house.

But before I go, just a few words about tomorrow, “black Friday,” traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S. There are movements, as there have been for years, to encourage people to stay home on black Friday and not get sucked into all the consumerist madness.

Tomorrow is officially “Buy Nothing Day” in the U.S. and Canada. The rest of the world celebrates Buy Nothing Day this Saturday. Adbusters has events planned all over the place to protest the shop-til-you-drop mentality.

Melanie Rimmer, a blogger I enjoy reading, has a Make A Gift Challenge on her web site. Staying home and putting together a handmade gift would be a nice way to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.

If you do want to spend money, consider buying handmade items made by craftspeople. Consider signing the Pledge to Buy Handmade this Holiday season.

Etsy has become one of my favorite web sites for finding gifts made by local craftspeople who will respond to my questions and package things the way I’d like them to be packaged. It’s so nice to communicate with a real-live human-being! I’ll write more about the Etsy sellers I’ve enjoyed dealing with later.

Another organization I like to support is Global Exchange. They have three retail stores (San Francisco, Berkeley, Portland) but also sell fair trade handmade gifts online.

What will I be doing tomorrow? Making the rounds of the hood gathering free cat supplies that Freecyclers have so graciously offered to me! Yes, we are still getting a kitten. Maybe two? We have to see if the landlord goes for it.

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Etsy handmade and vintage

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Beth Terry
13 years ago

Hi Mary Grace. I had to do some digging, but here it is. As I recall, I used homemade vegetable broth instead of chicken, regular milk instead of evaporated. Of course, I did NOT use canned pumpkin! And I made my own creme fraiche. Unfortunately, I cannot find the source of this recipe, as I copied it into a Word document for printing two years ago.

HALLOWEEN PARTY RECIPE IDEA, ALSO GREAT FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER Pumpkin Soup Served in a Pumpkin Shell ( Pumpkin Soup Tureen )

Preparing the pumpkin shell:

1. Select a squat pumpkin rather than one that is upright for balance. Field pumpkins used for jack-o-lanterns do not work well. The Cinderella variety or Rouge Vif d’Etampes, as well as many others, has the ideal bowl shape.
2. Start by washing the pumpkin in warm soapy water rinse well and dry.
3. Using a sharp knife, insert the tip about 1/3 of the way down, and cut away the top to form a lid. Scoop out the seeds (reserve for roasting) and stringy mass.
4. Lightly oil the pumpkin inside and out and sprinkle the inside with salt.
5. Place the pumpkin and lid on a parchment lined baking sheet or spray with an oil cooking spray. Bake a 325F for 1 to 1-1/2 hours depending on the size of the shell.
6. This is the tricky part. An over baked shell will not support the weight of the soup so under-baking is preferred. Bake the pumpkin shell until it begins to soften.
7. Remove from the oven and cool.
8. Gently scoop out some of the soft pumpkin from the wall, being careful not to puncture the shell. Scrape the cooked pumpkin from the lid as well. Use this cooked portion for the pumpkin soup recipe that follows or freeze it for later use.
9. Ladle hot soup into the pumpkin and serve. The lid can be used as a cover or you can serve the soup uncovered.

Quick and Easy Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Use your favorite pumpkin soup for the “pumpkin tureen” or use this simple recipe. Although this soup is rich and creamy there is actually no cream in it. The thick body of the soup comes from the pumpkin puree and evaporated skim milk.

* 2 cups finely chopped onions
* 2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
* 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
* 1 green chili pepper, chopped
* 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
* 3 cans chicken broth (14-1/2 oz cans) or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
* 2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 can (16 oz) solid pack pumpkin
* 1 bay leaf
* 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 cup undiluted, evaporated skim milk
* Salt and pepper to taste (Canned chicken broth and canned pumpkin may contain added salt. Taste the finished soup before adding salt, as additional salt may not be needed.)
* Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley

1. In a 6-quart saucepan, saute onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.
2. Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.

Transfer hot soup to pumpkin tureen. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Hope this works out for you!

Mary Grace
13 years ago

Any chance you still have your pumpkin soup in the shell recipe? Please share if you do!

terrible person
15 years ago

I saw another of those billboards on College Avenue, a block north of the intersection with Broadway, facing so that you see it when you’re heading south.

15 years ago

Hi Beth,
I had some pumpkins left over from my harvest volunteering with People’s Grocery down at their Sunol farm. So, thankfully I had quite a few choice pumpkins lying about and we put our soup in one of them, and made the other into a tulip vase. (:


15 years ago

Your pumpkin tureen is lovely. I took your cue and stayed home on black Friday. I even came up with an idea for Christmas presents for my friends and family. I’m going to buy a giant canvas drop cloth from Home Depot to cut up and sew into shopping bags for everyone.
I understand the trapped in the box mentality of the grocery store workers. I often get weird looks when I bring in my wicker laundry basket and set it inside of the shopping cart. Sometimes they believe that I’m purchasing it and I have to explain that it belongs to me and that I want all of the groceries put right into the basket again. Sometimes they even want to argue with me that surely I want my food in plastic bags…
I also often hand them a bunch of old pillow cases. They make great shopping bags because they hold a lot of food and are surprisingly strong (and readily available at second hand stores for next to nothing. Still, the employees at the register are quite often confused as to why I’m handing them a bunch of pillow cases.
When they ask why I don’t want bags, I often just say “because plastic is evil.” I wish I had a less quirky response that would truly educate in the limited time we have to explain why it’s so egregious to perpepuate the plastic phenomenon. I thought of typing up a terse response, copying it, and merely hand it to the clerk, but that seemed wasteful… Anyone have a succinct response that hits home in an effective and profound way? Maybe a photo of some nasty killer plastic lodged in the entrails of an animal would do it, but I fear it’s a tad sensationalistic.

Thanks for this site. I’m new and truly enjoying it.

15 years ago

Beth, isn’t it sad when a grocery store has no clue. Anyways, go ahead and post that recipe. I’m always looking for one I like since I’m not a huge fan of winter squash. We went kayaking on the South Slough in Charleston Oregon yesterday. No wind, full sun, absolutely the best day I’ve had on the Slough bar none and I grew up there. Not too shabby for Buy Nothing Day!

15 years ago

This is my first-time reading your blog. Go for 2 kittens from the same litter. They will keep each other company for the rest of their lives and yours. Two from the same litter will be the best decision about cats you will ever make. We did it that way, and 7 years later it is still the best!

Melanie Rimmer
15 years ago

Lovely soup, well done. Did you know pumpkins store really well (I means months and months) as long as the skin does not get damaged? I had one on top of my fridge for three months last year. So if you buy a bunch of cheap pumpkins the day after Hallowe’en, you can have pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and all the other lovely pumpkin dishes well into the following year.

Thanks for the link, too. If people decide to stay out of the shops and make recycled Christmas gifts on Black Friday, that would be really awesome.

15 years ago

Beth’s pumpkin soup was fabulous!

Here’s another recommendation for holiday presents: Heifer International. Not local or handmade, but helps those in need and no plastic or shopping involved!

15 years ago

I just found your blog and I’m so glad!

I can’t say that I’ve done much so far, by way of cutting back on my own consumption or making the necessary changes to live a greener life, but that’s actually how I found you.

It’s something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I want you to know that what you do does work, you’ve spread it to me now. Maybe once I get comfortable with my greener existence, I can spread it further too.

I’m going to spend some time to devote more attention to the environment on my own site and maybe that will spread too.

Thank you for what you do. Thank you for caring about things that so many other people don’t. I’m not American, but if I was, I’d be thankful this weekend for the people like you.