Book Review: A Pipkin of Pepper-Bonus Pumpkin Chili Recipe

Squishy picked out some fabulous books this week. I was surprised the one that captured his attention most was a book I had pulled for Learning Time. When the wind starts picking up outside, and the thermostat finally stays below 90 degrees, I like to focus on friendship and warmth. We just finished up our harvest and Farm unit, and that seemed like a perfect segue to start introducing Thanksgiving type themes. The soup pot comes out, and the house fills with those special Autumn time smells.

Making soup with friends and learning how to stay safe

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Squishy has been patiently (not so patiently) waiting for Autumn to arrive. Even though we had our Fall Equinox celebration back in September, our Wild Child had yet to arrive. She seems to always visit our Valley last on her trip around the world. So when the winds began to blow, and actual real rain was being forecast, I knew it was time to check out  “Stone Soup” by Marcia BrownThis will be the third year Squish and I have added this to our fall reading, and making a stone soup with friends has become sort of a tradition.

I was super excited last week when I got the email that our October books were being held. I usually pick one or two “Learning Time” books to follow the rhythm of our week, and I had ordered them quite awhile ago. The other fifteen or so books we bring home are simply for the enjoyment of reading, and usually all picked by Squish. It was while he was perusing the stacks last week that the jewel, “A Pipkin of Pepper-for the pumpkin soup”, caught my eye. After a quick glance, I thought it would be a perfect companion book for “Stone Soup”.

The premise of the book seemed simple enough. Three friends live in a small cabin in the country and are making soup. They are missing a key ingredient to make it the”best  you ever tasted”, and must go to town to buy salt. In my head I am thinking; friends plus soup…Perfect!  And it was, much more than my quick glance could tell me. The three main characters have more of a family relationship. The Duck, whose job it was to add the pipkin of salt, has never been to the big city and seems almost child like.The cat is a bit surly, and the Squirrel is the patient keeper of peace. The surprise twist in the book, for me anyway, was learning that it is actually not about soup at all. It is not about pepper, or salt, or even just about friendship. It is a cautionary tale about what to do when you get lost.


It has been on my To-Do list for a while, to start incorporating some emergency information into Learning Time. Of course Squish knows what police men are and he sort of knows what their job is. He knows what a fireman does and has met them at the various events around town where the fire engine would show up. Even though the noise and the crowds stir up anxiety, it is always a thrill for him. He loves all the working parts, and talking to the firemen about the various do-dads on the engine. The details on how they keep you safe, and what you need to do in order for them to help you, have been kind of vague, though.

*Spoiler Alert*

So, when the Duck gets separated from his friends and he learns all about 911 and staying where you are, it was the perfect learning moment. Especially because Squish was so engaged with the book.  This book has opened up the conversation on what he should do if he is ever separated from me. I will be honest, I have nightmares about him escaping wondering off. He has memorized my phone number, 911 and is working on his dads number now. We have also had intense talks about emergency situations. There is something special when a book can open up the communication with your kids. Helen Cooper has written several other books with the same characters, and I can’t wait to check them out.

This book is wonderfully written, with fun characters and an engaging storyline. Plus it’s just fun to say “A Pipkin of Pepper” a lot. We ended up using this book as the back bone to our whole week of learning. I was able to incorperate its themes into our circle song teaching Squishy important phone numbers. It also had a strong influence on baking day.  On baking day, AKA Monday, we had planned on making Stone Soup with Kinslet, Squishy’s cousin. When Squish and I started planning the shopping trip, he declared that we should instead make Pumpkin Stone Soup. Well, I didn’t have a pumpkin soup recipe, but Poppa Jock had a pumpkin chili recipe that would be easy to modify.

Pumpkin Chili to make while reading A Pipkin of Pepper

Cooking is Squishy’s second favorite activity, right behind being covered in mud. The recipe my dad had given me could be done almost entirely by these soon to be four-year olds, who have been cooking in my kitchen since they could push chairs up to the counter. I am not a recipe writer, but I wanted to share our first taste of Fall with all of you.

Hearty Pumpkin Chili recipe to make with the book A Pipkin of Pepper

This is one of my throw whatever is in the pantry into the pot recipes. So feel free to substitute with what you have on hand. They only thing that is ever the same when I make this, is the pumpkin base.

Do a quick chop of your Onion, small if you have picky eaters. In a large pot, and I like to use my ceramic dutch oven for this, add about 1/2  cup of your broth and a tablespoon of oil.  Again, whatever you have on hand, we used chicken broth. Set your burner to medium high. Add your onion and saute until translucent.

You can add your stone here if you are following along with “Stone Soup”.

Add your bell pepper (coarsely chopped) and Garlic to the onion and let that mingle for a few minutes. While the pepper and onion are getting to know each other, open all your canned goods and drain your beans and corn.

This is the fun part for Squishy and the other kids who help in my kitchen:

Dump all your canned food into the pot with the remaining two cups of broth. Then you get to add your Pipkin of Pepper, as well as the rest of your spices, and stir.

Bring your chili up to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes, then pull off the heat. While the Chili is cooking have the kids juice the lime, and add it to the chili when you pull it off the heat.

We decided to whip up a couple of boxes of Jiffy cornbread to go with it, and garnished with some shredded cheese. The best addition,though, was the friends and family we shared it with.


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