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The Great Pumpkin, Pablo

October 2, 2010 - Paul Giannamore
When I came out of the garage Friday afternoon on the way in from work, my neighbor, whose prolific garden fills their freezer and then mine each harvest season, offered me a pumpkin.

She had not planted pumpkins, but somehow, one grew off of a zucchini plant -- of which we've gotten like 14 of her zucchinis this year.

"Sure, " I said.

"Your wife doesn't want it," she reminded me.

Ahh. The Boss, the most wonderful cook this side of the Food Network, cannot do much with a raw, real pumpkin. The pie she tried a few years ago was good, to me, but not quite sweet enough and of a weird consistency. And so, raw pumpkin has been banished to someone else's kitchen.

But I feel adventurous in the kitchen lately. I took the pumpkin.

This morning, I cut it in half, removed the guts (and baked the seeds with a lot of salt, mmmm), then baked it for almost 2 hours at 350. Then, I pureed it in my mom's old Osterizer from the 1970s which I inherited (it's good for daquiris, smoothies, and I would assume margaritas, though we've never tried that).

After having done so and gotten a couple cups of orange smooth, warm goo from the blender, I'm left with three questions that I hope someone can answer.

1. If we're supposed to believe the Pilgrims and Indians ate pumpkins at the first Thanksgiving, was it actually pureed into a pie? Because, frankly, anyone without my mom's Osterizer from the 1970s couldn't possibly puree this thing.

2. Who was the first to taste a pumpkin and decide it might have a future as human food? This stuff is absolutely the most flavorless thing ever. I might just eat a roll of newsprint for more flavor, though probably not as much fiber.

3. Do you think the conversation on eating the first pumpkin went like:

"Hey, Jim, whatcha got there? A big orange gourd?"

"Yep, Joe. I baked one over the fire last night. Want to taste?"

"Yech. Jim, that thing is so flavorless I might just want to eat a roll of newsprint, if we had any yet, this being the 1600s."

"I know. What should I do?"

"Jim, it needs something. Try a little of that brown sugar stuff they sent up from the islands. And maybe some cinnamon. And what about that weird spice you got that tastes like everything else got mixed up in it?"

"You mean that allspice thing? Hmm. Might just work."

Or did they experiment a lot before hitting on the perfect formula?

"Daggone it, Jim, I don't think olive oil and lemon juice works all that well with that, whatchacallit, a pumpkin?"

"I know, Joe. But that boatload of Italian fellers that came in the harbor last night said everything's better with olive oil and lemon juice. I'm only glad I didn't add the garlic and the basil."

And they didn't have sweetened, condensed milk in a can (preferably an American-made steel can coated in ArcelorMittal Weirton or Ohio Coatings tin). So, just how did the modern pumpkin pie happen? And when?

These are the things that try my mind as the pumpkin cools.


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