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Pumpkin Preoccupation

By Darya Mead

It’s Pumpkintober, when suddenly everything from coffee to ravioli MUST have the autumnal squash as its main ingredient. Don’t get me wrong, orange is my favorite color and I actually like the spice infused  flavor of the comforting gourd. For eons, pumpkin pie and carving jack-o-lanterns, pretty much summed up the role of this native, vine growing gourd, but it’s role in American culture has clearly expanded, whether we like it or not.

Once, while living in France and teaching English to executives I decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch to accompany my brownies; an attempt to share the fabulous American cuisine. The brownies were a big hit but the pumpkin pie… not so much. I was told the French dislike cinnamon, but I tend to think they couldn’t handle the savory sweet intersection of the  vegetablish treat.

Nonetheless, if you partake in the pumpkin mania and have a pumpkin passion, why not fully immerse yourself? As fun as pop-up pumpkin patches can be with the wee ones,  why not try growing the gourd (for next year) or head to a real farm, where picking a pumpkin from a patch involves clipping from the vine. We were lucky to do this recently up in Healdsburg, CA at Home Farm. My nine year old, was absolutely giddy after so many trips to the pre-fab pumpkin patches. Likewise, as easy as it is to used canned pumpkin for all your baked goods, try actually making your own puree, it’s a bit time consuming and cutting through the tough skin can be hazardous (I have a scar to prove it) but  rewarding. I just cut the meat into cubes and simmer it on the stove top in a pot, with a little water. I add cinnamon, and other fall spices and make a mash. You’d be surprised how different it tastes; I often use maple syrup as a sweetener. I freeze some to add to mixes later in the year. Some of my favorite recipes are pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin risotto as well as my all time fave “autumnal salad” and don’t forget to roast the seeds with a little olive oil and salt—makes for a great snack!

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