Halloween did not turn out how I planned (few things ever do, really).
For the past three years I’ve hosted a trick or treating party at my house. It started after a friend asked if she could come out with us because the porch lights are all off in her neighborhood on Halloween. So I decided to invite everyone we know and make it a party.
The first year I made turkey chili and gluten-free cornbread and put out some apples. There wasn’t nearly enough food so the second year I added vegetarian chili with butternut squash, spinach, and black beans. This year, Halloween was on a Saturday so I decided to go all out and replace the butternut squash with Ruth Reichl’s pumpkin soup cooked in the pumpkin.
I heard her on Fresh Air talking about how impressive and easy this soup can be and I had to try it. (if you have time and an iPod, download this interview. It’s not just about food, she also talks about her latest book.) I was at Trader Joe’s right before they closed one night last week and saw a Fairytale cooking pumpkin for $6.99. It was the last one and it was enormous. I don’t know anything about pumpkins but I recognize a deal when I see one. Anywhere else it would have been sold by the pound and at 27.5 pounds this was a major score. Blinded by the deal and empowered with superhuman strength I managed to get it into the cart, into my car and into my house.
Holy crap, this was a big mother of a pumpkin that barely fit into the oven. I found a version of the recipe online and went back to the store for all of the heart-stopping ingredients – half and half, English cheddar, gluten-free bread.
Saturday rolled around and I started making the turkey chili in the morning. I changed my normal recipe around a little bit and added a can of roasted tomatoes and green chili (also TJ’s). Then I cut up and toasted the gluten-free bread for the soup. The house smelled delightful as I got ready to go on a long run. This day is turning out great, I thought, expressing a level of positive enthusiasm uncharacteristic for me.
“Mommy,” I looked over at my 5-year-old and his eyes were glossy and red. I touched his forehead and he was warm. His temperature wasn’t quite 100. Maybe he’ll bounce back, I thought.
I gave my husband specific instructions on what to do. “Look at me and listen to what I’m telling you. In 30 minutes take his temperature. If it gets up to 102, give him Motrin. In 30 minutes, a half hour, take his temperature.” I gave him the thermometer and told him what time it was.
Thirty minutes into my run I had this horrible feeling that my son’s temperature had gone up and he was really sick. I was at the point in the run where it would take me as long to get back if I turned around as it would to keep going. A stressful half-hour later I was home.
“How is he? Did you take his temperature?”
“How is he? Did you take his temperature?”
“No, you just left.”
“An hour ago!!” I took his temperature and it was 102. He looked miserable. “How has he been doing? Did he say that anything hurt?”
“No….. He threw up.”
“What???” Why wasn’t that the first thing you said to me when I walked in the door? We need to call everyone and tell them not to come over.
My poor little pumpkin was so sick he was going to miss Halloween, the holiday he’s been talking about since Christmas. How could I tell him he was going to miss the greatest day a 5-year-old can imagine – dressing up like a Star Wars character and getting free candy just because you ask?
Turns out I didn’t need to right away. Once he got a little Motrin in him, he was asleep for hours in the afternoon, just enough time to start making my pumpkin soup. I thought about skipping it, but how could I let the world’s biggest pumpkin go to waste?
I gutted the pumpkin and layered the toasted gluten-free bread with the cheese. Then I poured in a mixture of eggs and half and half. I planned to use one-half chicken stock and one-half half and half, but I picked up the wrong stock container at the store and this one had barley malt (gluten) so it was out. This was going to be one rich pumpkin.
Speaking of pumpkins, my youngest still wanted to party and go trick or treating and one of the party guests offered to have everyone over to her house. So I sent the husband, the boy, and the chili (which was fantastic thanks to the green chilis) to her house. The soup wasn’t ready when they left, so it was all for me (and only me – cream of pumpkin soup and vomiting children don’t mix).
The soup took about an hour longer than I thought it would. It wasn’t even really soup. It turned out more like a cheesy pumpkin appetizer. It was delicious, but even I can’t eat an entire pumpkin shaped trough of cream by myself and still be able to tend to my son.
It looks like we’ll be eating the pumpkin in some form or another for the rest of the year. That one pumpkin yielded enough soup for 10, plus enough pumpkin on the outer wall for at least 3 pies. Plus I’m going to use the pumpkin seeds to make mole. Pretty good for $6.99.
Now, I’m back to tending to the sick child. With a bowl of Pumpkin cheese mush.