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‘Two cups packed pumpkin…’

November 20, 2013

We had a good yield of pumpkins from our garden this year—a grand total of 14 from the few seeds we planted. The plants were lush and twining, woven with the morning glories. They even sought out the branches of the neighboring fir tree for a frolic. Considering our usual lackluster results, this year’s harvest was a bumper crop.

The kids carved a few for Halloween. A few were smashed in the road. The rest I peeled and cooked down. (Or, to spare my aching hands, roasted, then peeled and cooked down.)

It seems there is a multitude of pumpkin recipes that use “two cups packed pumpkin” as their foundation. We’ve had pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup with potatoes, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pudding (scrumptious, like pie but without the crust). gave mashed pumpkin away, and froze some, and we still have left-over soup in the fridge.

My pumpkin bread recipe comes from one of those spiral bound cookbooks—the kind put together by church groups and 4-H clubs and sold for fundraisers. Look for cookbooks at second-hand stores where you can buy them for a quarter or so and sometimes (should they disappoint) donate them back in the same week.

It’s true that there is no need to buy cookbooks anymore—you can find all the recipes you’d ever want on the Internet. But I still like to peruse the old books and have a fondness for these community cookbooks, especially the ones that include the cook’s name with their recipe.

After all, following a recipe can be another way of remembering someone—akin to a prayer. I like the connection I feel to the strangers who gave me the recipes for fried zucchini patties and silver spoon wings.

One book, called “From the Kitchens of Peet Hook, 1808-2008” (in Otsego County), offers short biographies of its cooks. For instance, Hilda Ludington’s lobster mushroom casserole recipe is accompanied with the information: “Hilda was the wife of pharmacist Al Ludington, when we had a drugstore in town.”

The mix of recipes in these collections depicts a smorgasbord of tastes from Beatrice Standish’s old fashioned butternut loaf cake and Anna King Talbot’s switchell (a cold drink made from cider vinegar and molasses) to Myrtle Emhof’s barbequed heart (chicken hearts, I assume). There are recipes for a delicious sounding penne with sausage, peas and mascarpone and a dubious “Mt. Dew cake.”

Some recall historical events like “Watergate salad” (a suspicious 1970s concoction of pistachio pudding, cool-whip and pineapple).