A mouse in the house and recipe for squash soup

A mouse in the house and recipe for squash soup

My cat, Sassy, is a wild little thing.

I adopted her about two years ago and am guessing she's about 2 ½. She still acts like a kitten – tearing around my house, carrying toys in her mouth and generally having a bad (but cute) attitude.

She started out as a stray, so she's a scavenger. I can't leave any food out, even on my counter or the top of the fridge, because she will hunt it down and eat it, or at least tear through the packaging until she realizes she doesn't like it.

I've learned the hard way with a box of wheat thins, a loaf of bread, thawing meat and most recently, a bag of all-purpose flour. I always assumed she'd be a kill-it-and-eat-it type of gal if I ever got critters in my house.

This morning, I was cooking soup and thought nothing of it when she carried her toy mouse by the tail into my dining room from my bedroom. That is, until she put it down and it ran back into the bedroom.

I won't embarrass myself by describing how loud I screamed while the mouse escaped (the cat was too busy looking at me like, “What is your problem?”). Following that, she'd sniff around, catch it, bring it into the dining room, let it go, bat at it and generally do anything BUT kill it.

And of course, because she's a cat, she calmly ignored my pleas of “KILL IT, SASSY!, “Kitty, do you want to take the nice mouse outside?” and “I”ll give you this whole can of tuna fish if you just kill it.” She wanted to play.

In a strange twist, the mouse somehow thought it would be safer if it crawled into a clear newspaper bag I'd carelessly left on the floor. It sat quietly for a while, while the cat lost interest.

My boss, Tony, (who graciously talked me through this crisis after I called to tell him I'd be late for work) encouraged me to get a broom and sweep the bag and mouse out of my house. I finally worked up the nerve to try it when the mouse decided it wanted to escape the bag.

I then chose to whack the mouse to death with the broom while it was inside the bag. How's that for reusing newspaper bags?

It took a while, and in a horrific twist, a black spider jumped out of the broom near the mouse's body. I made short work of that, too.

Getting the mouse out of my house (its body fell out of the bag while I was trying to get it across my floor) was a challenge, because the cat decided it didn't need to be alive for her to play with it. I finally got it away from her, out the door and into my yard, and cleaned up the murder scene with disinfecting wipes. Sassy seemed dejected, but kept sniffing, in case another mouse was around. Tony insinuated the same thing, but I hope he's wrong.

Meanwhile, my soup was still on the stove (I'd thankfully turned off the burner when I first saw the mouse). I didn't have much of an appetite, but I did taste it. It was good.

To tie this appetizing story into my blog, I've decided to post the recipe. I came up with it myself. It was inspired by a yam risotto (I'll post a recipe for that tomorrow) I tried making last weekend. I also kept in mind local cook Dena Strong, with her plethora of squash recipes, when trying this. Too bad I'll never be able to make it without thinking of mice.

What a Fright Squash Soup

2 tablespoons butter (olive oil would be healthier, but this gives the soup a creamy, not-so-healthy-it's-gross base)

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced (or use ½ teaspoon granulated garlic)

1 carton chicken broth

2 cups dried Great Northern beans (or you could probably use about three cans beans, drained and rinsed. I prefer dry for their lower sodium content and because of my SNAP Hunger Challenge habits) 

1 medium-sized butternut squash

2 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste)

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Soak the beans for eight hours. Drain, put in slow cooker and cover with water. Cook on low about eight hours (for me, overnight) or until soft. Drain.

Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Microwave for 10 to 15 minutes on high until soft. (Or roast in your oven an hour or until soft, for more developed flavor.) Scoop out flesh – or cut away skin – and mash with a potato masher.

Melt butter in a large pot. Add onions and saute until brown (actually, you could just soften them, but I wanted more flavor, as I cooked my squash in the microwave). Turn down heat, add garlic.

Saute garlic a bit and then add squash, cooked beans and chicken broth to cover. If you don't have enough broth, you could probably supplement with water. Add curry powder to taste (I liked two teaspoons) and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Bring to boil and let simmer 10 or 15 minutes. To thicken soup, mash some of the beans. Enjoy, preferably in a mouse-free environment.


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tmancuso wrote on October 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

Have you ever read the book "Mouse Soup"?

Meg Dickinson wrote on October 28, 2010 at 11:10 am
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No, but I'm glad it didn't become a true story today.

tmancuso wrote on October 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

Are you SURE it wasn't a true story?

algon wrote on October 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

Also, you may need an exterminator.

Meg Dickinson wrote on October 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm
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Maybe one named Grover? He would've made short work of that mouse, and probably responded to the tuna fish bribe, as well.

tmancuso wrote on October 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I would make a lot of noise the next time you arrive home. Let the whole mouse family know you're coming.

algon wrote on October 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Did you say a word you did not learn in Sunday school?

algon wrote on October 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Did you say a word you did not learn in Sunday school?

Meg Dickinson wrote on October 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm
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Yes. Maybe more than one.

Kyle Harrington wrote on October 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

Ha! I can absolutely imagine this in vivid color.

Meg Dickinson wrote on October 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm
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It's seared in my mind. Nothing like starting out a solid Thursday by slowly, painfully killing a harmless (yet disgusting) creature.

Ted Wolf wrote on October 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

We found the electronic mouse repellers work very well and since our aging cats can't keep up anymore. Just plug them in and mice stay away.

ageorge@news-gazette.com wrote on October 29, 2010 at 8:10 am

She used to have one of those plug-in exterminator things that a very nice former boss -- who knew of her fear of mice -- gave her for a housewarming gift.

Meg Dickinson wrote on October 29, 2010 at 8:10 am
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It has been reinstated! I'll never doubt its powers again!

Julie Wurth wrote on October 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm
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I need to get one of those! Do they really work?!!! Very funny blog post, by the way. I empathize.

Meg Dickinson wrote on November 01, 2010 at 7:11 am
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Amy swears by it. I think she got it at Menard's. So far I haven't seen any more mice, much to the cat's disappointment.

DenaS wrote on November 01, 2010 at 11:11 am

Before I got my cat, I lived out in SW Champaign, very close to all the cornfields, in a first-floor apartment, meaning I got mice every fall (or else the same mouse over and over again, one of the two). I got one of those tin-cat live traps from the hardware store. Put a bit of peanut butter on the inside of a milk jug lid inside the trap and the little guys go straight for it.

It took me a while to learn that you really do have to drive 'em 4-5 miles out into the middle of nowhere to keep them from coming back, though -- the little buggers have remarkable homing instincts (or at least the one with the cute white splotch on his head did).

DenaS wrote on November 01, 2010 at 11:11 am

eeeeep! I can totally relate to this story.

My cat used to be wild too. (I don't think you met him because he is pretty literally the world's biggest scaredycat. He's a big black tomcat with big yellow eyes... my very own hulking 16-lb ball of solid muscle and quivering terror. Very good watchcat -- he growls really loudly whenever anyone closes a car door anywhere in the neighborhood, or whenever anyone gets within 12 feet of the house! And then he runs and hides in the deepest darkest corner of my closet... sigh.)

Along with being the sort of cat who jumps 5 feet straight off the ground and performs astounding feats of acrobatics whenever a moth or firefly gets in, he's caught several mice for me.

He's killed them all right away!

...And then he's stashed them underneath the sofa (or inside the sofabed) for future dining. Where I later have to navigate my way to them by smell. Ewwww.

My theory is that this method of mouse preservation must be due to his not having mastered the knack of getting into the refrigerator. (That's the one door in my house he can't open. I swear he thinks opposable thumbs are for wimps who take the easy way out...)

Meg Dickinson wrote on November 02, 2010 at 3:11 pm
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Hahaha, I can't decide which is worse - not killing a mouse, or killing it and hiding it. I'm always amazed at how cats' personalities differ.