Butternuts about Beethoven

A recent assignment in bibliography sent me to major sources for Beethoven including an online resource for the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies based at San Jose State University. This free online resource indexes nearly 20,000 records having to do with this infamous character in history. While I am astounded by its  complex thesaurus of 9000 search terms, specific ones like “Beethoven’s hair” and “personal habits” amused me the most. Who knew? Maybe you did, but I did not. In case you were wondering, one of this library’s most unusual holdings is a lock of his hair…

With all this Beethoven on my mind while eating lunch last week, I began to wonder what he liked to eat. Accounts from Ignaz Seyfried describe some of his eating habits, and it is rumored that one of his favorite foods was macaroni and cheese. Sound familiar? In hopes of combining the spirits of Beethoven and autumn into a meal, a skillet full of pasta shells, cheese, and butternut squash for dinner last night seemed to be the right dish. The coincidence of a friend’s recipe suggestion and the purchase of a squash within the week of this assignment could not have been more perfect!

I largely followed this recipe for butternut squash mac’n’cheese with a few exceptions, like the addition of bacon and omission of bread crumbs and butter. Rather than sautéing our squash cubes in olive oil, we used a bit of leftover fat left from cooking four thick slices of bacon. The chopped bacon eventually topped the dish before the skillet went into the oven. Other deviations included replacing whole wheat pasta with regular shells since that was on hand, and substituting whole milk for skim milk.

Rich and creamy as expected, this one-dish wonder boasted tons of flavor from the squash and freshly-grated nutmeg. Unfortunately, my appetite was not patient enough to wait for a crispy cheese top–alas, there is always next time.

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