There’s a guy drilling cement outside the building across the street. If I find the noise penetrating from inside my office, how much of a beating are his ears taking? He doesn’t look like he’s wearing ear-protectors. The intermittent drilling aside, it’s a beautiful day, with golden leaves fluttering against a mostly-blue sky, now softening with a little cloud cover. This evening will be fairly mild for Halloween, and dry, a blessing for the small people who will be out trick-or-treating.
I associate Halloween with Thanksgiving and harvest, partly just because of the time of year, and more specifically because pumpkins and apples (remember when apples were part of Halloween?) are such a part of harvest time.
On the weekend I drove out for the day to a friend’s place north of the city. On the way I came across an honour-system pumpkin stand loaded with huge pumpkins. The sign said, $3 per pumpkin, Thank-you!” and there was a small cash box with some change in it. I had no change, so I left a twenty dollar bill, took back three dollars in change, and lifted five pumpkins into the car. When I got to my friend’s place I told her she now had two more pumpkins to do with as she wished. No choice!. ANother is going to a neighbour. That leaves two to be carved later today.
But back to the country. Once I got there and had a coffeee, we walked out to the back of the property, a rolling twenty-five acres, very beautiful, with a small river running through it. I always say it’s the largest twenty-five acre property I know, for it’s so varied and full of lovely mysteries.
We crossed the stream on flat stepping stones then climbed up out of the valley on the far side and into sunshine that warmed us into shedding our jackets. There was work to do, for a number of the trees at the edge of a field and along a wide path were encumbered with wild grape vines. They grow and twine and proliferate, eventually weighing the tree down so much that it sickens and weakens. And of course in winter the extra twining vines mean that there’s more surface for snow to rest on, and thus even more weight for the tree to bear. So we snipped and cut and broke the grape vines, then pulled them off and left tangled heaps here and there.
The last tree we did was a huge old apple tree. The apples (no I can’t tell you the variety) were crisp and beautiful and full of flavour. Their red was in fine stencilled-like strips. The windfalls that lay under the tree made a dense patterned splash of colour, and were aromatic where we stepped on them and crushed them. The deer in the forest are eating well these days, is all I can say!
We hacked away at the grape, then gathered apples off the tree and trudged on back to the house to make a late lunch.
The apples were calling out, so I cut some of them up, squeezed on lemon and lime juice, and piled them into a small oven-proof dish. I made a mixture of oatmeal, flour, sugar, and a generous amount of butter chopped into small chunks. Once the mixture was a fairly even crumbly texture I added a little water, so that it came together, nearly, as a kind of dough. The mounded apples were mixed with some sugar and cinnamon, then the streusel-pastry-ish mixture went on top and it all went into the oven.
Of course it’s hard to miss when you’re working with apples and sugar etc, but this was an especially wonderful treat, because those apples had such a complex dynamic flavour. The rest of them have just gone onto a pair of skillet cakes. Yum. And the hot oven, after the cakes came out, is now baking two small pumpkins, halved and deseeded and baking face down, lightly oiled on their cut sides. Once they come out and cool, I’ll lift off the peel and puree the flesh with a little extra water.
It makes a great soup, flavoured with olive oil in which I have cooked some garlic or shallots, whatever is to hand. You can include potato too, for even more thick unctuousness, but I find the pumpkin does well on its own.
Some friends are coming by for supper. We’ll take turns handing out treats to whatever kids come, and in between we’ll sip some wine and spoon up thick orange pumpkin soup. Not sure what the rest of the menu is; it will take shape as I forage through the frig!
Happy Halloween everyone.
POSTSCRIPT: A friend just called and will drop by with some tagine she made yesterday...and I forgot to mention the pumpkin seeds, the other wealth that pumpkins give us. Mine are toasting now...