This is the cool jack-o-lantern face my creative and talented husband carved into our Halloween pumpkin. Neat, huh? I love how he can just sit down and create that after looking at a few ideas online. When I "oooh" and "aaaah" and then ask him how it felt to do it, he calmly replies "actually, it was very cathartic".
Humm, I never expected that, but I guess it's true about the whole pumpkin experience if I really think about it. We go to a neat local farm, walk up and down rows and rows of pumpkins, proudly bring it home, cut it open, scoop out the slimy gooey cool seed pulp and smoosh it between our fingers all while sitting on the kitchen floor listening to fun music. What a treat to do once a year!
The day after Halloween, I take the pumpkin from the front porch and bring it into my kitchen. I know from previous years, any longer than that and it turns moldy. My plan for the pumpkin? Pumpkin pie, of course! After a quick text to my man getting permission to slice and dice his masterpiece, I cut it into chunks, steam them, then puree the soft pumpkin. With a bowl full of pulp (the other half saved for Thansgiving), I squint to picture what goes into pumpkin pie. Eggs? Yep, toss in a few of those. Evaporated milk, yes, almost all of the can. About a cup sugar kind of looks right. A little salt for balance. Spices? Throw in some cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla - the more the better. Oh, and the crust? I remember the 3/2/1 proportions - that would be about 1 cup flour, then 1/2 cup butter, then 1/4 cup water. I get some help from the eager little hands with mixing and rolling. Yep, just about right. Then cook for a while until set. Yummmm, once I smell the spices I know it's ready. Perfecto!
So, here is the weird part: I always bake strictly from a recipe. Always. That's why I like baking - a precise flow of steps and measurements. I read the recipe, gather the ingredients, time it all out, re-read the instructions several times as I go, and rarely veer away, at most omitting nuts or adding chocolate chips - nothing major. Never any big chances. Safe.
So, back to this pie. I didn't follow a recipe! I totally guessed! I simply felt this weird and wonderful confidence that it would turn out great. And, you know what? It turned out amazing!! One of the best damn pumpkin pies I've ever had! I've only dreamed about that kind of cooking confidence and I finally did it! Where did that come from? Who is the wild baking lady?? And, you know, I think I should try that again someday, soon, knowing full well the next time whatever I try might totally suck, but that doesn't matter. What counts is that not for one second did I worry about "failing"...I just did it. After all these years of baking it finally happened! I was in the zone. Like my husband and his cathartic carving experience, I got that, too (baking always makes me mellow and happy), but this was downright euphoric. And, yes, it's only a silly pie. For me it not only makes for a house full of happy tummies, but also symbolizes an exciting taste of what's to come - many more experiments in the kitchen, with a big scoop of confidence, a dash of fun, and, of course, balanced with extra trips to the gym.