December 13, 2007

Butternuts and Bocce

When I was a child, Friday night was bocce night at my grandpa's. A dozen sons of Italian immigrants gathered in the alley behind grandpa's suburban Chicago home. They drank a lot of wine. They ate a lot of pasta and Italian sausage. They tossed a bunch of wooden balls around. As the evening wore on, they yelled at each other in Italian words I didn't yet understand. At the end of the evening, they parted with hugs and hearty handshakes.

For the uninitiated, bocce is the Italian cousin of the British lawn bowling, the French petanque. You roll a target ball, and then you roll a series of colored balls, trying to get your team's "big ball" next to the target "little ball".

Thursday is bocce night in John's world and mine.

While the courts have improved a bit over the decades, the guys are far more open to allowing women to play, and in some arenas the game's being marketed as a corporate team building activity, John's Thursday bunch is still a group of guys playing in backyard courts. Drinking wine. Eating Italian sausage. And swearing in Italian. It's good to know some things are sacred.

During the winter months the group gathers on covered courts at a local park. This keeps them dry in the rain, but while bocce's a sport, it's not aerobic and the guys are looking for more than wine to keep them warm. At John's special request I sent down a crock pot of Heidi's Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup tonight. I modified the recipe only slightly, using leftover turkey stock in place of water to control the soup's consistency. The turkey flavors married beautifully with the squash and coconut -- warm and soul-soothing with a hint of heat. And it appears to be a hit... John says to expect a couple of requests for the recipe.

For more information about bocce in the United States, check out the USBF website.

Others who have enjoyed Heidi's sensational soup recipe:
Alexandra of the eponymous Alexandra's Kitchen... I'm now looking forward to trying her Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds.
December 17 Update - Soup's generally not her first choice, but Skrockodile of Cookbook Catchall has all kinds of applications for this one.

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