Peter isn’t the only pumpkin-eater around, but he must have eaten at least one very large one in order to keep his wife in the shell. Why she would put up with such a home, I cannot answer. Nonetheless, Peters worldwide are in luck. Antarctica is the only continent that cannot grow pumpkins. This member of the Cucurbitaceae is believed to have originated in Mexico where they left evidential seeds dating to about 7,000 BC. Various colonizers brought it back to Europe, but the name is derived from the Greek pepon for large melon. The French picked it up as pomou and passed it to the British who heard it as pumpion. That name traveled with colonists back to the Western Hemisphere where it outflanked all linguistic odds to become pumpkin.
While pumpkin lore abounds, I am sorry to tell you that the elegant white pumpkin coach of Cinderella fame is not included in the earlier French and German versions of the tale and appear to be straight out of Disney World. Another pumpkin tale must be told of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In this story all that remained of Ichabod Crane after being chase by a headless horseman was Crane’s horse, his hat and a shattered pumpkin. That shattered pumpkin has spawned many a secondary tall tale on its own.
Though they are most commonly known in the orange form, pumpkins actually come in dark green, pale green, white, red and grey. The most traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety. Heirloom to field to table to lantern, there is an extraordinary and cheerful range of size, shape and color. There is a gnarly entry that looks like the outside of a peanut shell, appropriately dubbed a peanut pumpkin. Venture into the farmers’ market and choose what delights you most. Pumpkins opens the holiday season with the coming of Halloween and stay for the remainder of the year to put smiles on our faces and something delicious in our mouths.
Maybe it’s the pumpkin’s rotund and jolly appearance that is responsible for the fun, festivals and contests they inspire. Pumpkins are the stuff of children’s imagination, fairy-tale coaches, bizarre homes and great goblin faces. Lucky us. There are annual Pumpkin Queens distributed across the U.S.. In 2006, Boston set the record for having the most jack o’ lanterns with 30,128 on display. There is a pumpkin festival that has been held in Circleville, Ohio every year since 1903 with a single three-year wartime exception. The world record holder for the largest pumpkin was set in 2016 by Mathais Willemijns of Belgium for his 2,624.6 pound entry. It has yet to be topped.
As for its culinary properties, the first colonists lopped off the top of the pumpkin; scooped out the stringy insides and seeds; then filled it with milk, honey and spices. They set the filled pumpkin in the coals of their fireplace to bake. That must be the great, great grandmother of all pumpkin pies. The Japanese use pumpkin to make tempura; the Italians stuff ravioli with it; the Thai make individual servings of pumpkin custard in very small pumpkins; and in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., pumpkin flowers are battered and fried. There are many pumpkin recipes on our website, not least of which are: Stuffed Pumpkin, Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Pork and Pumpkin Stew, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Pumpkin Sage Risotto and naturally several pies. Today we offering a Creamy Pumpkin and Leek Soup. It can be made the day before and gently warmed before serving.
The air is crisp, the leaves are gorgeous, the orchard fruits are ripening and many root vegetables are beginning to sweeten in their snug earthen wraps. Mother Nature, in her inimitable and immutable manner, seems to have autumn in apple pie order. Having said that, the apple, more than any other fruit, has spawned many of our day to day maxims. An apple a day…,Golden apples of the sun…, An apple polisher…, Forbidden fruit…, Upset cart…, Apple blossom time…, The apple of my eye…., Apples and oranges…, As American as apple pie…., One bad apple…, Adam’s apple…., a gift to the teacher…, are fragments and phrases embedded in our cultural assumptions.
The apple tree, its legends, myths and tall tales are likewise woven throughout the folklore of many cultures. We must share and trade off with the folklore of many others: Arabs, Bretons, Chinese, English, Germans, Greeks, Irish, Kazakhstani, Norse, Romans and Scandinavians. The mere volume of references is daunting. It was, however surprising to find that the apple’s reputation as the fruit of the temptation in Paradise is biblically unfounded. Apparently, some careless storyteller of old committed possible slander against this pomaceous relative of the rose. However, the young woman in Song of Solomon does ask for the comfort of apples. Then there was William Tell who was willing to risk his son to prove his archery. We can hardly ignore the poisonous apples of the wicked Queen, stepmother of Sleeping Beauty. What could be more American though than the tale of Johnny Appleseed and his cross country planting spree? Nor is it possible to forget Apple Annie’s shiny, miraculous apples in A Pocket Full of Miracles.
Speaking of legends, this nomadic fruit is thought by the most recent studies to have originated in the foothills of Tien Shan in Kazakhstan. How appropriate is it that a Kazakhstani folktale tells of a young student entrusted with gold to buy seeds for a great garden. The student’s compassion compelled him to use the gold to free miserably treated exotic birds instead. The grateful birds dug and planted an exquisite garden with a beautiful apple orchard. Every single apple variety can be traced to the great granddame apples of this region.
A tremendous amount of time is given to the mighty, for delicious reasons, apple pie. Nonetheless, we could readily turn a focused eye on the apple cake, which may have nearly as many variations as the pie. For the crust-wary, it is an easy way to put a delightful dessert on the table. This week we are offering a very simple Apple Cake which looks like a variation on Apple Sharlotka. Just for perspective, the most difficult part is slicing the apples. Of course there are many other apple recipes on our website, including: Apple Soup, Hungarian Style, Apple Cheddar Cheese Pie, Apple Maple Bread Pudding, Chicken Normandy and Kohlrabi, Apple and Mint Salad. Take a clicking browse through the website, you’ll find many interesting ways to use our market’s produce.
At its most stripped down definition, evolution is making one thing out of another. When it comes to food, this process has kept many of us occupied for centuries and still does. In terms of pizza it has, in recent years, met with some challenges.
In the very home of the Slow Food Movement, pizza was originally a fast food sold on the street by vendors with warming trays in wooden carts. Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba in Naples, which is credited as being the world’s first pizzeria, was built by one such street vendor. This creative pizzaman constructed his pizzeria’s oven with the volcanic stones of Mount Vesuvius in the mid 19th C. It is still in operation. When WWII returning soldiers brought a taste for pizza home with them, its popularity spread across the country. Pizzerias abound and probably outnumber all other ethnic restaurants. In recent years, the pizza evolution has brought itself full circle and pizza in new shapes with new technologies is once again a fast food available from food trucks on the streets.
Though the round shape seems to dominate, pizzas can be square or rectangular. Each form has it proponents. As does each type and combination of topping. These variants can foster debates as fierce as those quarreling over whose football team is better. It is no surprise that “the best pizza”, is a hotly disputed contest. Arguments concerning the merits of brick ovens, wood-burning ovens or charcoal-fired ovens contend with the adherents of thin, medium or thick crusts. Then there is the discussion of pizzeria pizza versus homemade. And we haven’t even whispered the word “anchovies” yet.
My Italian tutor, Jacopo, is from the northern province of Udine. He is a tremendous aficionado of pizza. He is more than adept at making his own and has established seriously discerning criteria for the art form in pizzerias and restaurants. Then he fell in love with a woman who is allergic to gluten. In the months that followed, he tried every gluten free flour he could find. He bought premade, gluten-free dough and sometimes prepared gluten-free pizzas from highly considered providers. His response to the pizzas resulting from all these gluten-free offerings was “schifoso” or disgusting.
A welcome breakthrough occurred when Jacopo remembered his Aunt Mara, a cook of some renown, and her recipe for a potato dough pizza. Though the original recipe called for dusting the potato dough with regular all-purpose flour, he used a brown rice flour with very positive gluten-free results. Just in time for October, being as it is, National Pizza Month. As is the usual case, you will find pizza recipes on the website including an adaption of Roberta’s of Brooklyn Pizza Dough and Tri Pizza Perfetto. Today we offering Jacopo’s Gluten Free Potato Pizza, an adaptation of his aunt’s recipe. And if you’re interested in slinging your regular pizza dough in the air, here’s a couple of links to show you how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5fmWs5EJDA and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbkfDqA8yKg.