A labor of love

It’s a tradition.
Fall in our household signals it's time for The Outdoors Guy to pay a visit to a local farmer where he buys butternut squash… lots of it!!! He usually buys about 25 pounds, netting him around 15 pounds of cooked squash.
He took this labor of love upon himself about 10 or more years ago. Needless to say, it has become his fall tradition.
The Outdoors Guy’s work doesn’t take place in our kitchen. Absolutely not!!!! This is a job he loves to do in one of his favorite spots… our garage. Thank goodness, at least he disinfects his work bench before the day begins!!! Still, I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting it would pass State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection standards!!
Once home, Bob brings his dad’s, Ray’s, old electric cooker up from the basement shelf and his labor of love begins.
It takes about a day’s worth of work, beginning with cutting the squash in half, scooping out the seeds and chopping each squash into 4-5 sections.
Next, the cooking begins. The Outdoors Guy empties one bottled water into the cooker and adds about 10-12 pieces of squash, depending upon their size. Each batch takes approximately 30 minutes to reach just the right consistency. Then, the next batch is put into the cooker. As it cooks, Bob allows time for the previous batch to cool. Once cool enough to handle, he scoops the squash out of the skin into a large bowl, mashes it and adds butter. This process continues throughout the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the wonderful fall aroma fills the kitchen each time he opens the door.
When the last batch is cooked, he carries the huge bowl, filled with the orange, velvety squash, into the kitchen. Then it’s my turn to lend a helping hand. I have quart-size freezer bags already labeled. The kitchen scale and several utensils are on standby. Together we scoop and fill each bag to 16 ounces, press out the air and place the finished products into our freezer.
Now our family can look forward to a winter’s worth of squash ready to heat and eat. It is especially scrumptious for our Thanksgiving feast!!
Bob could easily go out and buy a fancy new cooker that might make his annual ritual a little easier and quicker. Yet, each fall, when he pulls out that old cooker with the by-hand scribed “Ray Lamb” on the inside cover, a new model just wouldn’t do. There is also another self-inscribed "Ray Lamb" on the outside of the cooker.
No doubt keeping the old model is well worth it because I know Bob is flooded with memories of the years he watched or helped his dad, who passed away 22 years ago, use the old cooker to prepare wild game and other dishes while they enjoyed each others company.
A labor of love can come in many different forms. For the Outdoors Guy, it is his fall ritual… a date with an old cooker that still tugs at his heartstrings each time he lifts the cover to prepare yet another batch of his savory squash!!!

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