Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon – an homage to How to Cook a Wolf.

A recipe with seasonal vegetables and items our ancestors would have stored in the cold room: Smoky bacon, herby sage, and sweet apple give the squash soup layers of flavor.

The Wolf Moon in January comes in the deep dark of winter, when the North is covered with snow.

At this time of year our northern ancestors would have taken refuge in their homes, staying close to the fire as the winds and the wolves howled outside. Families lived off the food they had put up in the fall, often supplemented by hunting for wild game, salted meats and fish, and winter storage vegetables. It was these rations that kept the wolf from the door.

The wolf as a metaphor for hunger, appetite, or famine dates back to at least the fifteenth century. Over the past sixty years we have steadily driven the metaphorical wolf from our door, and we have also steadily driven the actual wolf from the land. We have also, perhaps, driven the wildness of the wolf from our hearts.

In How to Cook a Wolf, M.F. K. Fisher (one of my most favorite food writers, along with the beloved Anthony Bourdain) addressed an audience that had been struggling to feed itself through the privations of the Depression, World War II, and food rations.

Published in 1942, How to Cook a Wolf, concerns itself with how to live well in difficult circumstances. But Fisher acknowledges that even her witty advice may sometimes be inadequate:

“There are times when helpful hints about turning off the gas when not in use are foolish, because the gas has been turned off permanently, or until you can pay the bill. And you don’t care about knowing the trick of keeping bread fresh by putting a cut apple in the box because you don’t have any bread and certainly not an apple, cut or uncut. And there is no point in planning to save the juice from canned vegetables because they, and therefore their juices, do not exist. In other words, the wolf has one paw wedged firmly into what looks like a widening crack in the door.”

How to Cook a Wolf is not a guide to the particular needs of our era, nor is history ever intended as a manual for the present. What it can provide is comfort: to read a voice across the years and realize that some things, like spirit, rise up in any crisis. In “How to Rise Up Like New Bread,” Fisher described the “almost mystical pride and feeling of self-pleasure. You will know, as you smell them and remember the strange cool solidity of the dough puffing up around your wrist when you hit it, what people have known for centuries about the sanctity of bread.” In circumstances beyond our con