I’ve decided to dedicate my life to pumpkins. I’ve always loved pumpkins — for one thing, they are adorable, all round and fat and orange with whimsicle curly bits at the stem, and for another they are incredibly tasty. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin — I even discovered yesterday that I like pumpkin spice lattes although I’m not sure if the orange stuff they put in is really pumpkin or not.
We even named one of our cats Pumpkin.
When I was a toddler I won a Halloween Contest dressed as a pumpkin so maybe that’s where it all started (I’d post a pic, but I was actually quite a hideous looking baby, not normal hideous, but one that those Ooohhh, A Baby! People Who Lean Over the Mother’s Shoulder for a Peek would actually veer back from due to the shock and horror of discovering my face. I not only looked like a disgruntled old man, I had a large birthmark that made me look like a disgruntled old man who’d been in a wicked bar fight).
So, on dedicating my life to pumpkins — I’m going to do this by starting a new diet involving eating pumpkin as often as possible — I’d say every day but I can’t do much every single day except maybe brush my teeth and I didn’t want to put any undue pressure on myself or other dieters. The Pumpkin Diet or the Big P. Diet or possibly the Watch Out, Cinderella There’s a New Pumpkin Lover in Town Diet (WOCTANPLIT DIET). I’ve had some time to think about this as last week I came down with a cold (which hardly seems fair) which my body apparently couldn’t handle on top of the chemo side effects. It wasn’t even a very bad cold, but it was enough to knock me out for a good five days. In my unconscious and semi-conscious state I dreamt of pumpkins and how they were the key to a happy and healthy life.
People who come down with horrible and tragic diseases like cancer go on way weirder diets than this, some of them so disgusting (the cold vegetable mush diet, anyone?) that I will spare you the details. They persist, spreading from patient to patient often with little scientific evidence and a lot of urban myth behind them. A person could do far worse than the WOCTANPLIT DIET.
5 Very Good Reasons for the WOCTANPLIT DIET, Based on Sound Logic and a Bit of Science:
1) Pumpkins are delicious and send happy chemicals through your body when you eat them. This lets your body know that you are happy with life and therefore would like to live a long, healthy one.
2) Pumpkins are often eaten with herbs and/or spices which have all sorts of interesting chemicals in them that scientists are always researching and discovering new ways that they are Good For You.
3) There is a lot of magic associated with pumpkins almost always in a good way, see Cinderella fairy tale for an example.
4) Pumpkins are full of beta-carotene which scientists also say is Good For You.
5) Pumpkins are a tenacious and wily vegetable bursting with life which can almost certainly rub off on you if you eat enough of them.
I know this last one because I tried to grow pumpkins once. We’d just moved into this very cool loft apartment in Madison that was the second story of an old brick house with a large garden out back that our landlord said had been an organic garden for 100 years or something impressive like that. I’d never had a vegetable garden before and I decided to start with pumpkins. We didn’t really have any money as I had just quit my job working in cancer research as I’d discovered that I hated hospitals, didn’t like calling up patients only to discover that they had died and I was talking to the grieving widow who’d just come from the funeral (true story), and wasn’t the slightest bit interested in cancer. Ha, ha, v. ironic that.
I scraped up enough money for some seeds but was sadly lacking in enough money left over for proper garden tools. I looked in the shed and found an old hand rake. It was made of some kind of hard plastic, the handle was missing, and there was a large crack down the center. I proceeded to the garden bed with this poor piece of equipment and did some eye-balling of the space for my seeds. It turns out I’m an exceptionally bad eye-baller of space. I dug and dug with the little rake, turning the soil so the roots could go deep, until I had large fat blisters on my palms. And then I dug and dug some more, mounding up the turned dirt into three mounds for my pumpkin seeds. One for little plump sugar pumpkins, one for big jack o’lantern pumpkins, and one for some cool looking French cheese wheel pumpkins.
It turns out that I am not only a bad eye-baller of space, I’m not much of a gardener either. I know other writers who have this problem. A story takes hold and the rest of the world fades away, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks, and you go through the non-writing parts of your day in a kind of haze still stuck in your story, finding everyone around you quite rude for interrupting you staring off into space as though you weren’t doing anything important. When you re-surface, the world of your garden has changed, sometimes dramatically.
In this case, the pumpkin plants had grown, entangled themselves together, and completely taken over the garden. I’d planted some tomato seedlings a friend had given us and even put up some cheap wire cages around them. The pumpkins LOVED the cheap wire cages and wrapped little tendrils all around them so tightly they pulled them right over to the ground. And these tenacious plants didn’t stop after I’d picked the pumpkins and enjoyed them either. They came back the next year!!!! The seeds from my pumpkins which were some kind of mutant cross breed as pumpkins cross pollinate when planted so close together grew new plants right out of my compost bin to take over the garden again.
Tenacious, wily, and bursting with life. Who doesn’t want that energy coursing through their body?
I’ll leave you with my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (a Bridget Zinn Original)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur makes this as does someone else)
1 cup plus 2 TBL unbleached flour
¾ tsp salt
1 TBL baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup milk (2 % is best)
1/3 cup yogurt or sour cream
2 TBL canola oil
1 TBL vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips (If you’re going to the trouble, I’d recommend Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Chips as they are the Best)
Whisk together dry ingredients in one dish and whisk wet ingredients minus the chocolate chips in a different dish. Pour dry into wet and mix until just moist, adding in chocolate chips as you go. An hour or so of letting the dough set improves the texture and flavor. We usually leave it overnight in the fridge.
Take dough out of fridge — it could use a bit of time at room temperature but it’s not essential to get it all the way to room temp. Preheat oven to 375.
Spray muffin tin or cups if using with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon batter into muffin cups, fill to the rim.
Cook approximately 20 minutes, more if the dough was still cold. Muffins should be light golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean or at least not covered in dough (sometimes chocolate chips can interfere with the toothpick test). Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing.
(NOTE: You can replace milk with buttermilk [might need a tiny bit regular milk still to thin it out] and replace yogurt or sour cream with ricotta or cottage cheese if you have extras of one of these ingredients on hand and want to use it up. They key is to have one liquid [milk or buttermilk] and one solid [yogurt, sour cream, ricotta or cottage cheese] for the right consistency, one “sour” [buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream] and one “neutral” [ricotta or cottage cheese] for the right flavor)
(NOTE #2: If you are looking to make them a little healthier, you can replace ¼ cup of the white whole wheat flour with ground flax seeds and reduce the sugar to ¾ cup).
Love to you all,
ps. Barrett wanted me to let you all know that he feeds me other foods besides pumpkins and makes me carrot, apple, broccoli, spinach and beet juice every day (which tastes better than it sounds).