Though Halloween was certainly quieter this year, with no happy gangs of children trick or treating, lots of folks went over the top with decorating, lighting up the early dusk with lanterns and lights and of course pumpkins galore. My grandkids had been carving and decorating pumpkins all month but as Halloween drew near, they switched over to costume making, one choosing to be a ghostly Nearly Headless Nick (from the Harry Potter stories), the other a plump little robot. In their small community, all the kiddos held a distanced costume parade, and every household cheered them on. I wished someone had organized a similar event on our local green, so everyone could celebrate the youngsters and their costume creativity. With guidance and leadership, this pandemic could teach us how to pull together as families, as communities, as a nation. Without that leadership, we are floundering in depressing and dangerous disarray.
Overwhelmed by the onslaught of news, I’ve been taking refuge in historical memoirs, written by pioneering women a century ago and more. Reading about lives lived fully, despite social isolation and complicated and slow communication of national and family news, I’m realizing how much those wanderers prized connection and community when they found it. It’s also remarkable how much people helped each other out with food or labor when they were far from towns or regular sources of supplies. Help was offered even when people weren’t home: Right up into the 1940s, leaving isolated houses and cabins unlocked was common from Maine to Alaska. If travelers happened by, they were welcome to help themselves to food and a warm fire, but expected to leave money or supplies in exchange, while always refilling the woodbox. These days, it seems that as a nation, we have locked each other out. Rather than reaching out with helping hands, we have traded our value for community for that of independence. Learning our collective way back from solitary selfishness to community building will be a long task but/and a worthy one, well worth any amount of effort.
Pumpkins To Pie For
My porch still boasts quite a few fat little sugar pumpkins, so yesterday I split a few and roasted the pieces, along with some enormous beets that had been overlooked during my garden gleaning. I got a bit distracted and everything got slightly caramelized, which gave the resulting pumpkin pulp a deliciously complex flavor. Though field pumpkins are often stringy, pie pumpkins are more tender, easily mashed to soft, fluffy pulp. The roasted bits were not quite so conformable but my trusty stick immersion blender turned the charred slabs into sweet slush in a minute. There was enough for a pie and some spicy peanut pumpkin soup as well, both of which are perfect treats for chilly days and dark autumn nights.
Roasted Pumpkin Pie
1 unbaked pie crust (any kind)
2 cups pureed pumpkin pulp
1-1/2 cups milk (any kind)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, coriander,
cardamom and ginger
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 9” pie dish with crust and crimp the edges, set aside. In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir well (an immersion blender does an excellent job). Pour mixture into the pie shell (put any extra in a smaller baking dish for custard) and bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 F and bake until set (45-40 minutes). Serves at least one.
Roasted Pumpkin Peanut Soup
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 medium yellow potatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cups chopped sweet peppers
2 cups cooked pumpkin pulp
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (chunky)
2-3 tablespoons sweet Thai chilli sauce
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Combine oils, onion and garlic over medium heat and cook until soft (3-5 minutes). Add salt, potatoes and peppers, cover pan and sweat vegetables for 5 minutes. Add broth, cover pan and simmer until potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes). Add pumpkin pulp and peanut butter, stir well and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with sweet chilli sauce and serve, garnished with chopped peanuts. Serves 4.
Tonight, our local downtown church is holding a candlelight vigil, bringing people together to pray for peace and unity on this momentous Election Eve. In many traditions, this is the day of recollection, a time set apart to remember friends and family who have died this year as well as our ancestors and others we hold dear. I’m also putting (solar) candles in our windows tonight. Though their soft, gentle light may be washed out by the waning moon, they’ll flicker on all through this long night, which will surely feel like the year’s longest. Onward, together, right? Onward, together.