It is October and the great pumpkin attack has begun. Not content with pumpkin pie– or here in the Southwest, pumpkin empanadas– the orange army pops up everywhere. Pumpkin breakfast cereal, pumpkin cider, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin sausages (!?!), pumpkin tortilla chips. If you eat it, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks and everywhere you turn will be injecting pumpkin into it.
My daughter-in-law, Rene, revels in all this. I find it partly amusing and partly annoying.
But on second thought, the proliferation of pumpkin everything just emphasizes what our ancestor knew. Pumpkin is endlessly versatile. In fact, thanks to pumpkin knowledge shared by the Native Americans with our earliest settlers, our great-great-grands lived through many a New England and Northwest Territory winter.
An ancestor of mine whose family were early settlers in the Northwest Territory wrote about his experiences as a boy, and the food they existed on. Along with game and root vegetables, “Great use was made of pumpkin. We used to cut up and dry a great quantity of pumpkin.”
Pumpkin As a Side Dish
Here’s how they might have cooked pumpkin over a fire, and some facts about pumpkin as a survival food. Also some useful tips for cooking pumpkin today.
Back in the mid 19th century, cooks liked to stuff things inside of other things–a tradition that goes back about as far as we can trace cooking, at least to the Romans. But this recipe that bakes macaroni inside a pumpkin is a strictly modern and simply heavenly adaptation of that principle.
Last year, I discovered a simple recipe for pumpkin corn bread that quickly became my favorite. In fact, it edges out the previous favorite, cranberry-pumpkin bread by a tiny margin. Although it is not a traditional recipe–it uses Jif Cornbread Mix for heaven’s sake–it gets its goodness from ingredients our ancestors in aprons would have used frequently–cornmeal, molasses and pumpkin. (Be sure to make the molasses butter to go with the cornbread!)
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
This recipe caught my eye in a magazine ad, and I clipped it and taped it to a cupboard door long ago. It is moist and adaptable to your family’s taste. Adjust to your tolerance of spice and nuts.