autumn pleasures: three poems, butternut bisque, and gingerbread applesauce cake

Hello Friends. Can’t believe it’s already the end of October!

Fall is going much too fast for me. I wish there was a way to make it last longer — trees aflame with color, deep blue skies, crisp mornings, apple everything and friendly pumpkins! If I had my way, I would skip summer entirely and have two autumns in a row.

More than any other season, Fall reminds me to make the most of each moment. Lovely though it may be, there’s always this sense of reckoning, the gathering in and taking stock, and with that an acute awareness of life’s evanescence.

“Pumpkin Patch” by Paul Peel

by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it’s finally autumn!
And the child didn’t think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.

~ from Heroes in Disguise (W.W. Norton, 1992)


In the Alphabet Soup kitchen we continue to revel in our small joys. Recently Len found two baby box turtles in the front yard. He almost stepped on them! He scooped them up and brought them inside. Just the right size for Cornelius, he said.

Cornelius and Chef Bear had fun playing with the turtles, but it was tricky getting them to stay still long enough to take a picture. We soon took them back outside, where I’m sure they were much happier.

by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
She can ill afford the chances she must take
In rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
A packing-case places, and almost any slope
Defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
She’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
To something edible. With everything optimal,
She skirts the ditch which would convert
Her shell into a serving dish. She lives
Below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
Will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
The sport of truly chastened things.

~ from Flamingo Watching (Copper Beech Press, 1994).


One could certainly work up an appetite playing with turtles and the like. Nothing hits the spot like homemade soup!

I first made Susan Branch’s Butternut Bisque when I reviewed Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf several years ago. It’s now a favorite Fall tradition to reread this charming story and eat this soup. I love that it’s creamy and thickened with potatoes. Would you like to try some? What could be better than autumn in a bowl?. πŸ™‚

Susan Branch's Butternut Bisque

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • 2 to 2-1/2 lb. butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • pinch of nutmeg, pinch of ginger
  • sour cream for garnish (optional)


  1. Peel and seed squash. Cut into cubes and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large soup pot, add the carrots, onion and celery, and sautΓ© a few minutes.
  3. Stir the squash and potatoes into the vegetables. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes.
  4. Add curry, nutmeg and ginger. PurΓ©e the soup in batches in a blender. Return to soup pot, add more stock if necessary to thin. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream if you like.

~ from Vineyard Seasons: More from the Heart of the Home (Little, Brown, 1988).


Of course Fall wouldn’t be Fall without my trying yet another recipe from Amy Traverso’s The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (W.W. Norton & Co., 2011). I’ve made six other recipes from this book so far and liked every one:


This year I tried Amy’s Lowfat Gingerbread Applesauce Cake. It’s dairy-free and a nice snack cake that goes well with warm cider or a cup of tea. Best of all, you get to smell those lovely spices in your kitchen while the cake is baking — cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves — mmmmm!

Click for Ree Drummond’s Applesauce recipe.

Before I share the cake recipe, here’s an applesauce poem to whet your appetite:

by Sherry Gage Chappelle

I gather the children
for the annual bubble and blend
of sweet and sour
in a single pot,
that world of soft spring showers,
soggy summer nights, crisp fall
skins in gold and red and green.

We pluck the globes–
Gala and Fuji, Jonagold, Honey Crisp,
And I have pulled the second class,
the drops, the ones with spots of rot
with cuts and blebs and dings —
to excise and slice,
then core and chunk,
swirl and steam in a single pot.

The kitchen fills with news from the Bose
today’s stew of bullets, germs, and harm,
extinction, icebergs, ocean spoil.

Below the food mill’s blade,
our brew melds and smooths.
The boys spoon in Spice Islands of
cinnamon, nutmeg, a bold bit of clove,
watch lava bubbles burst
in the caldera of sauce.
We fill each pore of the kitchen
with the scent of fall
and hope
for us in our single pot.

~ from Joys of the Table: An Anthology of Culinary Verse, edited by Sally Zakariya (Richer Resources Publications, 2015).


Of course you’ll want to try this recipe; having the word “lowfat” in the title makes you feel less guilty when you reach for another piece. The applesauce adds moistness and flavor. Yummy with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream. πŸ™‚

Lowfat Gingerbread Applesauce Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print


  • Grease (butter or shortening) for the pan
  • 1 cup (237 ml) unsweetened or lightly sweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) light or medium molasses
  • 1-1/2 cups (215 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and set a rack to the middle position. Grease the baking pan with the butter or shortening, then dust with a couple tablespoons of flour. Shake pan around to distribute an even coating of flour, then dump out any extra. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the applesauce to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the molasses and the baking soda. The mixture will foam up and bubble. Let this mixture sit and cool a bit.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or using a hand-held mixer), beat together the eggs and sugar on high speed until the mixture is thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Drizzle in the oil in a thin stream, continuing to mix as you do.
  4. Add about a third of the flour mixture to the egg-sugar-oil mixture and whisk just to blend. Add half the applesauce-molasses mixture. Mix again to blend and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of your bowl, making sure the batter is evenly mixed. Add another third of the flour mixture and mix, then add the remaining applesauce-molasses mixture. Mix, then scrape the bowl down once more with a spatula. Finally, add the last of the flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  5. Pour this batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is firm in the center and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Set the cake on a rack and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then use a thin knife to loosen the cake around the edges and carefully turn it out onto the rack. Let the cake cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), then dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Credit: The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso (W.W. Norton & Co., 2011).



Art by Antonia Woodward

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird, I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” ~ George Eliot



poetry fridayThe lovely, warm and welcoming Linda Baie is hosting the Roundup at TeacherDance. Waltz on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend and have a Happy Halloween!


wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!

Copyright Β© 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


61 thoughts on “autumn pleasures: three poems, butternut bisque, and gingerbread applesauce cake

  1. What a delightful post! Thank you for pairing Linda Pastan and Kay Ryan poems — these are two of my favorite poets! The food looks delicious, as always. Love today’s post. Pinning to my pinteret board of soups to make!


  2. Jama, you have satisfied my finding fall craving in one scoop of a blog post. I love Susan Branch’s recipes and have the book you mentioned. I was thinking of making soup this weekend so thank you for the recipe. The cake sounds yummy so that may be the accompaniment. As for your post-just wonderful. I savored every bite and would like to scoop up some of your tasty tidbits for my Autumnventure Gallery (with credit to you): The paragraph before the Pumpkin Patch image with the image, the last visual, and the last 2 stanzas of the poem HEROES…Is that fine? You can let me know at cvarsalonadotgmail.


  3. Why am I not making applesauce right this very minute?? Inexplicable. Thanks for setting me straight, Jama. (All the poems have such lovely endings.)


  4. Happy autumn, Jama!! It’s my favorite season, and when I’m most homesick for New England :(. Pastan’s Autumn poem is so lovely–thank you for sharing that! And I’d love the Butternut Bisque with veggie stock πŸ™‚


    1. Yes, you could use veggie stock for the bisque and it would be just as delicious. New England has the best Fall color IMHO — can’t blame you for missing it!


  5. Let the eye enlarge
    with all it beholds.
    I want to celebrate
    color, how one red leaf

    flickers like a match
    held to a dry branch,
    and the whole world goes up
    in orange and gold.

    Oh, my HEART.


  6. Making applesauce and the way it makes the house smell so, so good is a favorite. Your poems delight, especially about fall, but that turtle poem is so perfect, Jama. Although there are the challenges: “almost any slope/Defeats her modest hopes”, patience does win doesn’t it? Love the “autumn in a bowl” from you! Thanks for so much goodness today!


    1. Ryan’s poem gave me new appreciation for turtles. πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed the poems, Linda — loved your autumn poem today too!


  7. I, too, would give up summer to have two autumns in a row, Jama. Heck, this year I’d take ONE autumn – we are still in the high 90’s in Tucson! The lines: “Let the eye enlarge/with all it beholds.” in Pastan’s poem is good advice for daily life – not just in autumn (if it ever arrives…sigh). Happy Halloween! =)


  8. I’m not ready to let go of autumn! Autumn I feel is like nature’s way of preparing us for the coming of winter – it’s like she’s throwing us a colorful party that we can reflect on during the seemingly endless days of February… πŸ˜‰


  9. A perfect choice of poems today, Jama. I’m always amazed by how deftly Ryan weaves in the internal rhymes. Brilliant. And so are your photos, as always.


  10. You’ve got my mouth watering, Jama, for an autumn harvest of yummies! Tis the season of soup and I intend to expand my horizons beginning now. Loved the Pastan poem and the playful music of Kay Ryan’s “Turtle” β€” glad the bears (and you) enjoyed playing with the real thing!


  11. I don’t know about skipping summer, but I’m with you on two autumns in a row. (Maybe we could get rid of winter instead!) Just like all the apples mentioned in Chapelle’s poem, I love the variety in this post, Jama. Linda Pastan and Kay Ryan? Who could resist? I especially love Pastan’s last stanza and that image of “the whole world [going] up/in orange and gold.” Thanks so much for sharing!


  12. I love fall but I agree — what happened it it? It just slipped by so quickly this year. I love apple anything and recipes by Susan Branch. I’ll clicking through to check them out.


  13. I just loved your combination of fall food poems, fall recipes, and beautiful fall illustrations!

    best… mae at


  14. Treats and poems as well, so rewarding to visit. And, I would love “two autumns in a row” myself. Though ours is a bit different in Hawaii, right now lots of rain between the sunshine. That bowl of butternut squash soup would go well.


  15. Fall is one of the things I miss living here. It just isn’t quit the same feeling as when the seasons really turn and the leaves and weather make a larger change. Your post with the poems and the fall foods makes me smile. As do those tiny little turtles! πŸ˜‰


  16. Oh how delightful! The perfect antidote for all the Christmas merchandise that clogged the aisles today as we sought the final touches for a Halloween costume!

    And I share with Cornelius: SkΓΆldpadda – literally “shield toad” which apparently is Swedish for tortoise. πŸ˜€


  17. I love gingerbread – in any variety! I will definitely try this recipe sometime this winter (if the weather decides to turn cooler here in the midwest…)


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