Inside the Pumpkin Stew
by Rosie and Susu
There were plenty of things in a soldier's training that were not glamorous or even macho ... a lot had to do with feeding yourself and your compatriots when there was little or nothing available.
During a live fire infantry exercise dirtside, young Soontir Fel and his academy class platoon found themselves cold, wet, exhausted and hungry, marooned on a small planet with no supplies. With communications out, Fel took the lead and ordered the boys to empty their kits to see what they had. Putting it all out, it amounted to some food tablets that tasted like nerf, but not enough to feed all of them adequately, and some medicinal oils. Looking at the famished, drawn faces, Soontir decided they all needed hot, wet, nourishing stew, as much as they could eat. He announced they'd have a stew that night, lighenting up some of the grimness they all felt.
His love of agriculture allowed him to recognize some edible roots and stalks, and Soontir assigned the boys to either gather them or to look after the injured. A trigger-happy classmate named Han Solo managed to bag some small animals with trip wires and blasters. Once enough food had been gathered and source of potable water discerned, they discovered they had no pots in which to cook -- not even their helmets, which were ventilated for the hot moist climate.
Refusing to despair, Han managed to fuse together the metal from several helmets to make a single small pot, but it couldn't hold enough to feed them all. Fel had discovered a huge patch of misshapen, wild squash, about 1 to 5 kg apiece. Recognizing them and confirming them to be similar to the edible pumpkin he'd had on Corellia, Fel explained the plan -- the initial searing and boiling would be done in the helmet-pot in batches, the contents would be transferred to the hollowed out pumpkins, and the remainder of the cooking would be done in the embers of campfires inside these pumpkins. This would be repeated until they ran out of ingredients.
Using standard-issue daggers and vibroblades as kitchen knives and scrapers, the boys were dubious about the quality of the stew to come.
At mealtime, each man was given a baked pumpkin and told to use them as bowls, and to eat the pumpkin itself along with the stew. Opening the tops of the pumpkin, the boys all felt it was the most sublime of smells, and they ate their fill, not even thinking to save any for breakfast the next morning! Their freshman battle exercise resulted in a lesson on trust, survival, and leadership they never forgot. All this, from the inside of a pumpkin ...
Wash pumpkin; cut a 6-8 inch circle around top stem. Remove top and set aside. Discard seeds and loose fibers from inside. Place pumpkin in a shallow sturdy baking pan. Spoon stew into pumpkin and replace the top. Brush the outside of the pumpkin with the remaining oil. Bake at 325 degrees F for 2 hours or just until the pumpkin is tender (do not overbake). Serve stew from pumpkin scooping out a little pumpkin with each serving.
Yield: 8-10 servings.
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