I have an absurd love of pumpkins. As autumn rolls in and all of a sudden piles of pumpkins pop up along these country roads, I become giddy and can't help but squeal, "Look! PUMPKINS!" every time we pass a patch. To me, they are the most beautiful vegetable. I love their rotund form, their twisting stumps, and their relentlessly bold color. No wallflowers, pumpkins declare themselves proudly.
For several years, starting when I was around eight years old, I had a backyard vegetable garden. One year I grew pumpkins. I got a small crop and picked most of them, but left the largest one on the vine to get bigger. Every day I went out to check on it and decided to let it grow just a bit longer. Finally one morning I decided it was time, but when I went out to the garden, my pumpkin was gone. Fat and happy the day before, it had been attacked by slugs in the night. All that remained was the stump and a few sad, stringy seeds. It was an important lesson: patience may be a virtue, but hesitation can get you screwed.
As much as I love pumpkins, I rarely bother with roasting them and scooping out the sweet flesh. Why go to all that trouble when the canned puree is flavorful, perfectly smooth, and cheap? I always get the plain pumpkin, not the pie mix with all its added sugars and spices, because I prefer to spice it myself and I actually rarely make pie. My three favorite things to make with canned pumpkin are pumpkin ravioli, curried pumpkin soup, and pumpkin bread.
I made the season's first batch of pumpkin bread last Friday using the recipe from my circa 1970 Betty Crocker cookbook, which I picked up in a thrift store just before moving in to my first apartment. The recipe, which uses one 15oz can or half a large can of pumpkin, makes two 8" loaves. The bread is so irresistible that the two of us could easily go through a whole loaf in a day or two, so I split the batter among four mini loaf pans and freeze some. Later in the season we can pull one out of the freezer at night and have it ready for breakfast in the morning.