A Bare Table is Like an Artist’s Canvas

There’s something about tables, big, little, or bare – and those bare ones  in particular – that make me want to festoon them with food I’ve cooked, like floral garlands at a grand wedding. I feel an urge, too, to seat people on the equally vacant chairs, saying, “Come on now, sit down a spell,…

Ode to the Great Pumpkin [Pie]: Speak, Memory*

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye, What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? ~ John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Pumpkin,” 1850 Some people moan and descend straight into mourning with the first frost. Not me. You’ll find me in my kitchen, with clanging pans and steaming windows, eager to put…

‘Tis now the very witching time of night*: Lessons from a Rotting Pumpkin

Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling, When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling! When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin, Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!** Every October, a nearby farm family celebrates the harvest by opening up their land to the surrounding community. Hundreds of cars…

Saints, Souls, and Haints: Here Come the Pumpkins

Some pumpkin-laden advice from Janet McKenzie Hill, sounding like the Martha Stewart of a much earlier generation in her  Practical Cooking and Serving: a Complete Manual of How to Select, Prepare, and Serve Food (1902, p. 566): CENTREPIECE OF FRUIT FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER OR HARVEST FESTIVAL [Halloween] Select a golden-colored, medium-sized, well-shaped pumpkin. With a…

Idylls of Cuisine #33

[A photograph, and nothing more, for silent contemplation.] For more on pumpkins, see my post “More Than Meets the Pie.”

Diana Kennedy’s Menu for Charles, Prince of Wales

In 2002, Diana Kennedy, well-known author of Mexican cookbooks, served the following menu to the man who would be king, Charles, Prince of Wales:* Cocktails & Appetizers Tequila Apéritifs Fresh Tortillas Small Pumpkin Seeds Toasted and Ground with Roasted Habanero Chilies Guacamole Enhanced with Grapes and Pomegranate Seeds Meal Cream-of-Squash-Flower Soup Pork Loin Baked in…

Flavor Principles Out of Africa: The Plentiful Permutations of Pumpkin

The following recipes demonstrate, in a very concrete way, just how taking one ingredient and cooking it according to regional culinary practices changes the whole flavor palette. North Africa: Marak Dar Marhzin (Moroccan Pumpkin Stew) Serves 4-6 4 T. cooking oil 2 medium onions, chopped finely 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced 1 t….

A Whiff of the Middle Ages

The beefy smell of pumpkin soup and wood smoke nudged its way into the night air. It was just before Vespers, or evening prayers, and the village began to lock up, settling down, lights going out one by one like fireflies on a summer night. Only the kitchen lights shone out over the cobblestone street,…