It’s still hot. And I’m still not complaining. But I am moving very, very slowly. On Tuesday afternoon I walked a mile and a half to the auto mechanic’s to pick up our car. It was 100 degrees and the heat was viscous. Walking was like wading. After fifteen minutes I’d traveled only a few yards.
Hours later and a third of the way there I stopped at a corner store to cool off and buy a drink, but the store wasn’t air conditioned and there was a $5 minimum for debit card purchases, so I left my 99 cent bottle of water sweating on the counter. Back outside I contemplated hitchhiking, but the mere thought of extending my arm, let alone sticking up my thumb, was exhausting, so I carried on. Left foot. Right foot. L e f t . R i . . .
My brain, swollen with heat, throbbed against my skull. Sweat pooled at the front of my bra and tickled as it rolled down my back. There was a sharp little pain at my hip.
Zipper? Rough seam?
Bug! Caught in my waistband. Biting me. I pinched it dead through the fabric of my skirt, its carapace crunching between my fingertips. I considered crying. Too hot.
The last quarter mile before the garage was on a busy, shadeless road. Sun everywhere. The roar and exhaust of a passing bus sent me seeking refuge at the nearest business, a Christian bookstore. The interior was deliciously cool. I darted past the clerk and feigned browsing while the sweat turned to salt on my skin. 199 Promises of God; Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God; Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes: Giving Yourself Permission to Lighten Up; What Does God Expect of Us?
What does God expect of us? The clerk sidled up next to me and started asking questions of his own. Could he help me find something? Was I looking for anything in particular? Did I know the store took special orders? I was weak, vulnerable. No matter that his intentions were clearly to sell, not convert: One glass of ice water and I’d belong to Jesus.
Outside again, it was like I never left. The heat enveloped me, settling across my skin, filling every pore. I didn't have the will to go on, but I didn't have the will not to go on, either. WWJD?
On the corner of my mechanic’s lot is a tree, and I stopped in its shade to dig my keys from my purse. Opening the car door was like opening a preheated oven, a blast of burning air spilling forth. I drove with the windows down, nearly to my destination before the air blowing from the vents was no longer a searing desert wind. By the time I arrived at my friend Amy’s, my skin was slick and prickly, hair damp, skirt plastered to the backs of my legs. Inside her house I bogarted the chair in front of the fan and tilted my head forward to let the air oscillate across my neck. “I made cold foods,” Amy called from the kitchen. Chilled Thai Squash Soup. It was so good I gave myself to Jesus.
Naw. But I did have seconds, and made a batch of my own the next day. This is the perfect food for a hot summer evening: cool but a little spicy, deeply flavorful without being the least bit heavy. Slurpable. Refreshing. Delicious.
A few notes:
1. When I first tasted it I assumed the squash in the soup’s name was something autumnal, acorn or butternut maybe, but it’s made with “yellow crookneck squash.” Which is just your basic summer squash, the one that starts appearing this time of year, piled precariously next to its green doppelganger, zucchini.
2. The recipe here is more or less as it was published in Bon Appétit. Amy added sugar, so I added some, too, a scant teaspoon after the squash, and a little more to taste after I’d pureed the soup—the sugar isn't meant to sweeten, it should deepen. You'll need salt, too, though the amount will depend on your stock, your curry power, your taste buds, and whether you're trying to replace all the salt sweated from your body on that long-ass walk.
3. I’ve now eaten this with both nonfat yogurt and non-nonfat crème fraîche, both of which were scrumptious, and the cilantro shouldn’t be skipped, either.
Chilled Thai Squash Soup
From Bon Appétit
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 pound yellow crookneck squash, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (or more) broth
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
Sugar, salt, & pepper to taste
Plain nonfat yogurt
Chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add curry paste and curry powder; stir 20 seconds. Add squash and sauté 1 minute. Stir in 2 cups broth and coconut milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add teaspoon of sugar. Boil gently until squash is soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly.
2. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and more sugar to taste. Transfer soup to a bowl and chill until cold, at least 2 hours. Thin with more broth, if desired.
3. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of yogurt into center of soup in each bowl. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.