Spiced and Roasted Butternut Squash with Dates

img_0864I’m going to talk politics a bit,so if you are just looking for a nice side dish for Thanksgiving, scroll down for the recipe, but be aware that that I am a powerful witch and even reading my recipe will fill you with love and acceptance of even your most freaky and foreign neighbor.  In fact, it’s already too late.  The only defense against my spell is to read my whole rant.

img_0867I don’t mouth off about politics much in public forums.  I live in a liberal bubble in New York City and I don’t see the point of preaching to the choir.  This blog may be the most diverse audience that I have access to.  So, just in case you read my blog and don’t actually know who I am when I’m not cooking, let me fill you in.  I’m an immigrant.  I’m an artist.  I’m an educator working in public schools.  It is my mission in life to give young children, in large number immigrant children, the opportunity to think and work like an artist as part of their school day.  I want them to know that their story and their ideas are important.  I want them to have mastery over the tools of communication and to take joy in articulating their thoughts.  I want them to be able to problem solve, take risks, listen deeply and collaborate.  To me, that’s what it means to think and work like an artist.  I don’t do this because I want to help raise the next generation of artists.  I have found being an artist to be a pretty thankless career choice in a lot of ways.  I do this, with the population of kids that I do, because I want them to successful in life and in contributing their story to the American story.  I chose to live in this country because I think it is an amazing place, full of possibilities.  Not just possibilities for success and wealth but for possibilities for change, creativity and innovation.  I want my students to benefit from moving here in the ways that I feel I have benefited.  I also want my chosen country to benefit from the gifts that these newcomers have to offer.  To generalize a bit,  I’d say that my students are smart, hardworking, motivated, resilient, bilingual (or on their way there) and cosmopolitan.  Yes America, they are coming for your jobs, and if they don’t succeed it is only because the system is stacked against them with racism, classism, sexism and nativism.

All across my city the week, children came to school frightened and in tears.  It’s  heartbreaking that so many people in this country would vote for a man who engaged in hate speech as a campaign tactic.  I can’t believe that all of those voters are hateful racists and misogynists.  I imagine many are just frustrated and angry at the system.  I get that. But if you don’t speak out against hate, then you are complicit.

For those who say,“We never took to the street and protested Obama, when he won.”  I wonder what they thought would happen as a result of hate speech being used in Trump’s campaign?  Let’s pretend that Obama had promised to come after Christians instead of Muslims, or insulted the rural regions instead of urban neighborhoods or threatened to deport white Americans because their ancestors might have committed crimes against Native Americans, instead of Mexicans because they might have some association with the drug trade.  Would they say, “Hey!  Let’s just give the guy a chance!” ?  I think not.  I’m astonished that anyone is surprised or offended that people feel the need to express that they do not support, condone or legitimize hate.

I am not someone who goes to big protests…or big concerts or big festival or any large gathering of humanity for that matter.  Given how much I dislike being in a crowd, it’s astonishing that I have managed to live in NYC for over 20 years.  I’m someone who makes art, works with children and cooks.  I know it’s a cliche, but I react to stressful situations by cooking food.  So, expect to see more of me here in the near future.  This Thanksgiving, I will gather and cook with a group of twelve people.  We will be diverse in ethnic makeup, gender, sexual orientation, color, age, immigration status, education level and economic position.  I hope, that in addition to whatever family you keep near, you are also making room at your Thanksgiving table for anyone who may be feeling at a loss for community right now.

Also, try this butternut squash dish.


  • 6 pounds butternut squash
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 12 medjool dates, pitted and chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 1 teaspoons smoked hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper (I like Aleppo but cayenne would work too)
  • 1 teaspoon Sumac (If you can’t get sumac use the juice of 1/2 lemon)
  • lots of parsley for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel and seed the butternut and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
  3. On 2 baking sheets, toss the butternut with the oil and salt and spread them out in a single layer.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the butternut is barely soft.
  4. Add the dates, give everything a stir and spread it out again.  Cook for another 12 to 15 minutes or until the squash and dates begin to caramelize.
  5. Transfer to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with the paprika, red pepper, sumac and parsley and serve.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Glenda says:

    Wonderful, Erin. I’m so proud of you and the good work you do. Also this squash recipe looks different and delicious!

  2. Sharon says:

    Well said, Erin.

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