Fermat's Last Recipe

theorems and corollaries contrived in the kitchen

Curried Butternut Squash Soup + Letting Go of Control

I recently read this article titled Letting Go of the Need to Control, written by a woman who I think catered toward the general audience of the Alcoholics (and/or Narcotics/Emotions/Eating Disorders/etc.) Anonymous community. It got me to thinking about the roll of control in my own life. True, the aspect of this article that focuses on the need for control of other people does not well pertain to me. Certainly a need for control is central to my Ed. But it does not rear its head in the manner described by Ann M.

I have no doubt that the article is correct in noting that “our attempts to control come from an unconscious need to feel more powerful.” Empowerment and independence have been the two standards driving my transition from girlhood into womanhood. The little girl who picked up one piece of spilled macaroni pasta at a time and walked it back to its bin grew into an adolescent teaching herself to knit, and building two kayaks just as much for the fact that no one else could do it as for the actual joy of the process and result. This girl then was expected to buy her own clothes and get rides anywhere and call for doctors appointments by her teenage years. What I came to interpret from my mother’s encouragement in this independence was that in order to be truly grown up, mature and praiseworthy, one must be totally in control of all aspects of one’s life. As I l got summer jobs, learned to do my taxes, applied to colleges, and competed as one of the top three candidates for high school valedictorian, I thought I was getting it right, successfully taming the vast, wild world into my hands. And yet the article insists that “we try to control when we feel inadequate.” Did I and do I feel subconsciously inadequate? So desperately inadequate that controlling my academic career and finances wasn’t good enough, that I then needed to hyper-control what went into my body? How so very surprising… and disappointing. Disappointing that under all my dreams of exuding powerful femininity, I may just be harboring desperate inadequacy.

Indeed, as the article points out, “the controlling behavior we develop to gain power is actually destructive because it keeps us from feeling.” If I have come to normalize anxious thinking in my daily life, it would make sense that I reactively adapt behaviors to keep me from feeling that pain. A key characteristic of controlling behavior:

“I doubted my feelings; I did not do what I felt like doing.”

Bang-on. The emotion side of my Wise Mind is thoroughly dominated by my reason side. Emotions and feelings are impulsive. They are the cause of fights in relationships, credit card debt, and overwhelmed breakdowns. With rationality my life can be efficient and I can keep my relationships healthy. Perhaps I identify emotional behavior with impulsivity. Because it is compulsion that I have spoken of in the last few sentences.

I recently came across a passage while reading that stressed a distinction between control and responsibility. I struggle with that distinction, though I will attempt a start at hashing out the concept here.

  • With responsibility, we have the skill to see things as they are in the world. We recognize what elements are within our duty and/or ability to change, and what elements are to be free to evolve according to the will of our Higher Power. With control there is no such clarity of thought.
  • When we are responsible we do our duty for the benefit of ourselves or others. Perhaps controlling behavior encompasses this, but it also goes beyond duty. When we are controlling we may believe that we are benefitting someone, but the true effect is damage, as the article describes.

How do I determine where my responsibility ends and my fruitless control attempts begin? For example, with all my hard work in my academic performance and quests for resume-building opportunities, how much of my future do I need to release? At what point do I stop, breathe, and allow the world to point me in the right direction? I spend so much time forging paths— would it be best for me to stop at some point and step off-trail into the trees? Again from the article: “Needing to control makes it hard for us to see life is a process of learning and working things out.” Is there a tacit “in the moment” hovering at the end of that sentence?

A final note. Once I find the boundaries of my responsibilities, the natural next inquiry is to how I keep myself within those boundaries, The text suggests “Look for behavior patterns… decide to trust [your] own feelings and perceptions… identify alternatives.” I agree with the author’s later assertion that we are unable to trust ourselves because “we are afraid what we long for is inappropriate or unattainable.” Yes. It is a big bad world out there. I fear that my longing to succeed in it is a far-unattainable goal, encouraged by the testimonies of my elders. Perhaps I need to re-evaluate my understanding of success. I’m not even sure I could articulate what I want in terms of my “success” in navigating this world. Happiness? But then who am I to claim that I even have the ability to know what will make me “happy” in my future? Ah. Aha. I have found one boundary of responsibility beyond which all must be relinquished to the Wild World. THEOREM FORGED!

On to the soup! Butternut squash is my absolute faaaavorite starchy vegetable. I think it’s even better than sweet potatoes. Slurping down something like this soup always fills me with a feeling of deep physical nourishment, like my body can sense the load of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber as soon as it enters. I personally like to be adventurous with the cayenne pepper, but you can spice the soup to your own pleasure. Roasting the squash rather than boiling it would also add a delicious twist, although it would take quite a bit longer.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Active time:  25 min          Total time:  40 min


1 medium butternut squash
1 onion, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Knob of coconut oil, or 2 tbsp of olive oil
Chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp curry powder
½ tsp finely chopped ginger, or ¼ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne, to taste
A small handful of fresh basil



  1. Peel and cube the squash. If you are like me and sweat a little too much when you attack butternut squash, I recommend this handy article from The Kitchn for tips on how to cut up butternut squash with perhaps a little more ease!
  2. Melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the squash and onions, and sauté until the onions are softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add the curry powder, ginger, salt, cayenne and garlic, cooking for 2 more minutes. Enjoy the spicy fragrance that will fill the room.
  3. Pour in the stock. Add enough so that there is about an inch of liquid covering the vegetables, at least 4 cups. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through and tender. Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves so that they wilt.
  4. Puree in a blender. An immersion blender is especially handy here. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

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Behind the Blog

Allow me to introduce myself! I'm Sophie De Arment. Fermat's Last Recipe is where I share my vegetarian kitchen adventures. You might also glimpse some knitting, kayaking, juggling, and math-ing along the way.
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