Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Pluto Story: Pumpkin gingerbread (makes two loaves)

Pluto understood "Don't touch."
Here, he waited for permission to eat a green bean.
I used to cut out new recipes from the newspaper on a regular basis, and at one point I really liked getting new cookbooks, too. Over the years, I have come to embrace the fact that I am not an organized cook. Nor am I an enthusiastic one.  About a year ago I began to wonder if I was wasting my time ever looking in any cookbooks at all, save one: The Joy of Cooking.  This is the cookbook I learned to use as a teenager, when I first made cookies and cakes. I have a pretty recent edition, which I bought when it was new, in 1997. I had to go through a period of adjustment to this edition, as sifting has gone out of style in favor of whisking, but the changes were minor. Mine has notes in the margins from successful endeavors, and failures.  I gave SpƤtzle another shot on Christmas Eve, and was very pleased with the results, and the next day our Crispy Roasted Duck was perfect, thanks to the Joy.  I dislike making anything I can’t find in there, having concluded that being able to find 2.39 million results for an online search for “pumpkin gingerbread” is completely useless. Give me moderated content, or give me nothing. But that’s another story.
I used to have a handwritten recipe for “Pumpkin Gingerbread.” I think it came from a parent who served it at a baby playgroup, which would date it to 1991. I can say for sure that under the title it said “Makes two loaves,” because for years I made it from the hand-written recipe. Rather infamously, we never got to eat the second loaf.
Pluto was big for a Vizsla, and had issues with bolting his food, eating things which were not food, and stealing food. He had what we described as a telescoping neck, since he was able to pass by a table set with food, and snatch food items as large as his head in one motion. Many quick breads, like pumpkin bread, are actually improved by spending a day wrapped in plastic wrap. The first time I made this pumpkin gingerbread, Pluto stole one and ate it and was working on the second when I interrupted him. On this and many other occasions, I would yell at him and he would hold his ground. To put him in a time-out, I would have to chase him out of the kitchen and into the basement with a chair, as a lion tamer would. 
Another day, I would attempt pumpkin gingerbread again, and using my superior powers of reasoning, I would find a higher shelf inside the cupboard to rest the bread for a day. I never saw how he got to it, but he did. We never, ever got the second loaf of pumpkin gingerbread as long as Pluto was alive. We believed, based on how it passed through his digestive system, that he ate that second loaf in one mouthful, plastic wrap and all.  I always thought Pluto would eat something that would kill him, and he came close once, but in the end it was just cancer.
Today, I use the pumpkin bread recipe in the Joy of Cooking, increasing the amount of pumpkin and skipping the nuts and raisins. 


  1. Now I'm hungry! Did you know that Marion Rombauer Becker headed up the art department at John Burroughs School way back when her mother first wrote The Joy of Cooking?