Pumpkins have not always been available in British supermarkets. They only began to appear in the 1980′s with the return of Halloween, and then only for a few days.
Today British farmers grow fields of this vegetable, and so I was surprised when my neighbour told me she had no idea what to do with her jack-o-lantern now that Halloween celebrations were well and truly buried for the year.
Don’t know what to do with a pumpkin!? I said, running down a long list of possibilities in my head – savory mash, pumpkin soup, baked pumpkin wedges, pumpkin bread, and of course the quintessential pumpkin pie.
“I’ll make a pie for you, if you’d like,” I volunteered. “Oh would you?” she said, clearly relieved of the burden of recycling her great orange visitor on the window ledge.
So I went around two days ago to pick it up. It was a very big pumpkin. In fact, we both agreed that it was too big for me to carry back home, and she agreed to drop it by on her way out later in the day.
By sheer coincidence, that afternoon an American friend emailed me about an old British cooking programme by the Two Fat Ladies she’d been watching. Apparently, Clarissa’s advice was never to let an American near your pumpkin. They will turn it into a pumpkin pie with too much sugar and too much cinnamon, she said. Later in the day, my English husband warned me that pumpkin pie was an acquired taste. He too said that the first time he’d had it – at a Thanksgiving dinner in my family home some forty years ago – he had found it too sweet and the taste of cinnamon over-powering.
So I went to Google and looked at the pumpkin pie recipes being offered by contemporary British cooks. Sure enough, every single one of them call for between a quarter and half the spices I use in my American recipe and half the sugar.
So I adjusted the recipe for the pie I was making for my neighbour. When I took it over to her this morning, I told her I’d reduced the cinnamon and sugar but that it might nonetheless be an acquired taste, and that I would not be insulted if the most complimentary thing she could say about it was that it was “interesting.” “Oh, but I love cinnamon!” she said encouragingly.
I’m not confidant I will ever get the full unvarnished truth about what she thinks about my American pumpkin pie adapted to British tastes. After all, it took me 40 years to find out my husband had to “acquire” an appreciation for my superbly pure American recipe.
In any case, I am turning the rest of the jack-o-lantern into a savoury soup using a recipe from India. It calls for root ginger and chili peppers, and not a grain of cinnamon.