There is hardly anything more comforting when the cool weather blows in than a warm bowl of soup. According to Larousse Gastronomique, soup is “a liquid savory food served at the beginning of a meal or as a light meal in itself.” Well, couldn’t that describe a stew or, for that matter, bisque or chowder?

Again, I turn to my culinary bible and read further to find that chowder is categorized as a type of soup, as is bisque. The term “bisque,” however, is reserved for soups made with pureed shellfish, and often enriched with cream. Stew is not classified as a soup but is in a category all its own. Stew is defined as a preparation of meat, fish or other food cooked by stewing, or simmering for a long period of time, especially a mixture of meat and vegetables. Stews are generally more hearty than soup, so they are most often served as a main course. Funny thing, according to¬†Larousse Gastronomique,chowder is a type of soup, but another source described chowder as a “seafood or vegetable stew.” No wonder we’re all confused!

Regardless of nomenclature, “soup” is the perfect cold weather fare. A hearty bowl of soup can consist of just a few simple ingredients, and it doesn’t have to be take hours to prepare. I have come across dozens of recipes for butternut squash soup, but one of my favorites is a butternut squash puree that a dear friend made for me years ago; it has become a Thanksgiving tradition for my family. I’m not certain of the origin of the recipe, but along the way I have made a few modifications. It’s not difficult to prepare and liberates me from the tedious task of peeling a rock-hard butternut squash. The flavors are balanced and it is easy to make a day or two ahead, just don’t add the cream until you are ready to serve it. i like to garnish the soup with a drizzle of creme fraiche and a few chopped, toasted hazelnuts.

As with many shared recipes, each time I prepare this butternut soup I think of my friend and all the wonderful memories we have. For me, sharing is the heart of cooking, and somehow this bowl of soup embodies this relationship between family, friends and food.