All I have to say is, thank god for pumpkin week. And all BFF Lauren had to say was, it was a good idea in theory…
Pfft. I thought scheduling pumpkins for Halloween week was a great idea since the stores and churches and schools and farms would be bursting with fresh patches of big, orange squashies. Then again, the only pumpkin item on my agenda that actually called for fresh pumpkin was the lasagna Lauren has been planning since the project started, so it wasn’t likely I would be dallying in any pumpkin patches and if there were gonna be any consequences of my bright idea (which there obviously were), I probably wouldn’t have to bear them.
Monday was still gloomy and gray so I spent most of that day thinking and planning (i.e., moaning and groaning) rather than shopping and cooking. While I was thinking, planning, moaning and groaning, I decided I should incorporate into pumpkin week the three most culturally prominent pumpkin foods: pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds and Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. Then I laughed. Like I’m going to make a pie. But I can probably manage seeds and a latte, and two outta three ain’t bad (thank you, Meatloaf).
At happy hour on Monday with Erin and Amber at the Spanish-Venezuelan-Cuban fusion Mezcalito’s in Oakhurst, I actually discovered a salad with pumpkin seeds (I mean, it’s not like I was digging for gold, it was just right there on the menu). So I added grilled steak to that bitch and knocked Day 1 out of the park. To be fair, they were just seeds and I couldn’t even really see them, so I’m not positive the kitchen remembered to put them on my salad, but it was a good try.
I was most looking forward to pumpkin lasagna on Day 2, though, which I really intended to be my inaugural pumpkin meal. BFF Lauren has been talking about pumpkins and pumpkin lasagna for weeks now, ever since she discovered a cookbook with nothing but pumpkin recipes (an entire book), because apparently pumpkin is not just a vegetable (and even that may be debatable), it’s a super food. I don’t know what a super food is, but it sounds important. Each time Lauren has made pumpkin lasagna she tells Facebook, and everyone there seems to agree it sounds delicious. So. Bring on the deliciousness.
Except for that one part about the consequences of my bright ideas…
OK, but for real, if you were planning this project, wouldn’t you have put pumpkin during Halloween week? It’s just fucking clever.
So the thing about pumpkins is they come in various sizes, most of which are appropriate for cooking, except at Halloween when their only sizes are big, bigger and monstrosities, which are really only appropriate for carving and smashing. Obviously I wouldn’t know this because when would I ever have had occasion to cook with a pumpkin before? And frankly, I didn’t know stores sold pumpkin at any time of the year other than Halloween. So actually, I thought I was doing pumpkin week a favor by situating it at the end of October. You’re welcome, pumpkin week.
But, eh, sorry, Lauren.
So Lauren, who had planned her day around pre-prepping the rather laborious pumpkin lasagna construction, wound up a bit perplexed by the scarcity of the cooking pumpkins amongst all the carving pumpkins. She got a carving pumpkin anyway and called me to let me know the situation and that it might be a little longer before she got to my house, like I had any fucking clue what she was talking about.
Meanwhile, back at my place, I served a pumpkin seed appetizer (it was just pumpkin seeds in a fancy bowl) to David and my sister, Bethany; played loud music; and showed off my best dance moves while they ignored me and talked about esoteric bullshit. Whatever, yo. It’s pumpkin week.
Lauren called again to say the larger pumpkin wasn’t working, so she was delayed because she had to go out and found some smaller ones. Now that she was prepped and ready to go, she and her pumpkin lasagna parts were officially on their way.
Pumpkin lasagna has a lot of parts. I’ve discovered that most of the recipes of this project that have been really worth it have had a lot of parts. And pumpkin lasagna… so fucking worth it.
We spent the next hour doing what has come to be my favorite part of this project: spending time in the kitchen with friends and family around warmth and yummy smells. The buttery, orange pumpkin sautéing on the stove and the creamy white béchamel simmering in Lauren’s bright red pot were the perfect antidote to my winter vegetable blues. Suddenly I was transformed into a cozy snow bunny, dreaming of hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows by an open fire on chilly nights, bundled in sweaters and hats and scarves, mmmmmmmmm. I love pumpkin week!
Lauren carefully layered all the parts—whole wheat noodles, sautéed pumpkin and chicken sausage, béchamel, and mozzarella and parmesan cheese—in a casserole dish and popped that prettiness in the oven. When it came out all pretty and golden 45 minutes later we ooh’d and ah’d. It was beautiful. A fucking masterpiece. Lauren was not surprised.
“I make pretty shit.”
And I win shit. We’re such a good team.