Trick or Treat ?

When I was shopping for pantyhose at Fogel two years ago I wasn't considering how well they'd support a sugar pumpkin. I was worried about shoving my own pie thighs into them and looking fashionable, or at the very least, thinner, tanner, or something.  I'm sitting here now, on an island off the Pacific northwest, admiring how well they have accommodated the girth of the sugar pumpkins I trellised in an old wine barrel months ago.  Sabina, my ever supportive dog, looks on with two balls shoved into her mouth, unaware of the significance of this moment.  I have to pause: my pumpkins are wearing pantyhose, and I am not.

I’m not wearing pantyhose and my old Tahari suits are about to go on Ebay (finally).  I just bought (another) pair of wellies this past weekend - real cushy ones lines with soft (fake) shearling.  Perfect for a morning stroll to the coop to collect eggs.  Or a jaunt through Lower Manhattan, from what I’ve seen on the news and heard from friends.  I never envisioned myself here, and yet I’m here.  Pulling on mukluck boots in the morning to wander across the soggy field, listen for the hens’ beauty parlor banter, and collect myself some eggs to be poached and served with steamed spinach over whole wheat sourdough toast, or whipped into batter for chocolate chip cookies or pot de creme.

I’m thankful for a lot of things -- power, in particular, today, as I thumb through Facebook posts of Manhattan friends entertaining without refrigeration and climbing through stairwells in the dark.  I can’t help but think that I could have easily been there, pulling on my warmest pair of wool tights, and my tall, unbroken-in red Hunter boots, to wander through the flooded streets, probably making my way to the office.  I saw a photograph of the Manhattan skyline last night from Jersey -- darkness everywhere -- except the beacon of dotted lights from the Goldman building, lit up like a Christmas tree.

Here, I can see so many stars at night, each their own beacon, and testament to this different life we have chosen.  We want it to work.  We’re trying to make it work.  But the path isn’t carved out -- we’ve ignored the instruction manual.  Pumpkins like to roam, their vines creeping and reaching around this and on top of that.  They’re not climbers, and yet I’ve engineered them to be, with a few supports, twine, and a few foot fulls of pantyhose to counter the weight of the growing fruit and prevent it from falling from the vine.  I’ve saved space and effort by rigging them to grow vertically, but they’re much smaller than the crop I allowed to roam, and there are fewer of them.  I wonder if all that energy, that’s gone into smaller fruit, yields a sweeter, and richer, treat.  Or perhaps my trellising trick simply leads to smaller, and fewer of the same old sugar pumpkins.

Either way, I’ll do the same next year, if only to see how they adapt.  That’s the plan for us as well: forge ahead, against the grain, hoping for a richer treat.  With some luck, I’ve given up my pantyhose for good; I’ve found my support in things other than stockings.  Like a few worn in pairs of wellies and a perfect pumpkin muffin, warm from the oven, smeared with butter, and shared with friends and family.

Trick or Treat?  To be determined.  Happy Halloween.

Roasted Pumpkin Oatcakes 

These are substantial, and finger lickin good.  All that oatmeal will get you nice and carb'd up for a busy morning.  They also make a pretty nifty pre-dinner snack, as I can attest to.

Yield: 12 oatcakes

1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin puree*

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup spelt flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup natural cane sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

*If you must, use canned pumpkin, but if you can, make your own -- it really is better.  Split two small sugar pumpkins in half horizontally and spoon out seeds (set aside to later roast or compost).  Place pumpkin halves cut side down on a roasting tray and bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until soft.  Allow to cool somewhat, and puree in a food mill or food processor.  Or if you’re using an electric mixer for the recipe you can just puree it in there and then proceed by adding the oats, etc.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan or grease with butter.

In a large mixing bowl or electric mixer, combine the pumpkin puree, oats, flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, butter, maple syrup and sugar. Stir gently as the ingredients melt together. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Pour the warm coconut oil mixture over the oat mixture. Stir until just combined, add the eggs and stir again until everything comes together. Stir in the pecans.  Spoon the dough into the muffin cups.

Bake the oatcakes for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of the cakes are deeply golden. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The oatcakes, wrapped tightly, will keep for several days.