Whether you call it autumn or fall, it's here. The natural signs of fall include the leaves on many trees that ignite in color. Thanks be to God, the temperature finally falls and the humidity decreases, affording us here in the South glorious crisp mornings and evenings. The commercial signs of fall—Halloween decorations, costumes and candy, Thanksgiving decorations, candles and foodstuffs—are for sale in variety stores, crafts stores, grocery stores and farmers' markets. Best of all, you've got your pumpkins, waiting with their firm orange girth to provide those same two signs of fall—décor and food.
Families go to those grocery stores or farmers' markets and pick out the pumpkin that shall become a masterpiece jack-o-lantern to grace their front porch. In the variety store, they purchase the pumpkin-carving tool set, or they go online at Web sites like pumpkinmasters.com where you can purchase "Power Master Saw: The ultimate carving tool! All-new battery-operated saw with replaceable blades."
At home, they gather around the kitchen counter where the pumpkin waits patiently near the sink. Perhaps the most artistic among them will have sketched out a pattern; if not, the above-mentioned Web site touts "Free Patterns: Download your favorite pattern. There's still such (a) thing as free." The family sets about making their jack-o-lantern, thereby creating a memory. And if their jack-o-lantern has a saw-tooth-edged cap that fits well above two triangular-shaped eyes and one nose and a jagged grin—all cut with a sharp kitchen knife instead of with a battery-operated carving knife—so be it.
Some families discard the meat of the pumpkin. That's a shame because this member of the gourd family is a good source of vitamin A, according to "Food Lover's Companion" (Barron's Educational Series, 2001, $16.95). According to its cover, this robust little book is filled with "Comprehensive Definitions of Nearly 6000 Food, Drink and Culinary Terms." The text says you should pick a pumpkin that is free from blemishes and heavy for its size. Pureed pumpkin is also available in cans. Here's a recipe for that meat you've scooped out of your pumpkin—don't try this with canned pumpkin, please.
Pumpkin Soup (4-6 servings)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and rough chopped
1 medium pumpkin, peeled, seeded and rough chopped (smaller than a basketball, not a lot smaller, but still smaller)
Olive oil to sauté
1 1/2 qt. vegetable stock, enough to just cover the pumpkin
1 pint heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg for garnish
Make a bouquet garni in a paper coffee filter, tied shut around the following ingredients:
4 sprigs thyme
6 parsley stems
4 cloves garlic
1 T. peppercorns, whole
1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick
In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil, just until they start to become translucent. Add the pumpkin and continue cooking over medium heat until you can stick a knife into the pumpkin and it comes out easily and clean. Add the vegetable stock and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook 30-40 minutes. Add the cream, cook 20-25 minutes more, still at a simmer. Remove the bouquet garni. Puree the mixture until smooth in a blender or with an immersion blender in the cooking pot. Strain through a china cap—a cone-shaped metal strainer—or a medium-mesh. Push through some of the vegetable matter because you want your soup to have some body, a bit of thickness. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with nutmeg now or after you've ladled the soup into individual serving bowls.
Enjoy your food memory.