After reading my old friend Rob's comment on my last blog entry, it occurred to me that my friends who formed their perception of me during the first half of my misspent 20's would be shocked by who I am, now that most of the rebellious crazy particles have been refined from my personality.
Yes, I cook. And I'm a very good cook, if I do say so myself. I also clean (that's the one that ought to really shock people). I have also learned that I am strong. I'm actually capable of having real relationships with people, now. I know how to trust. I can deal with being vulnerable.
Strange as it may seem, cooking is a manifestation of my willingness to set aside defensiveness and bravado so I can devote my energy to developing relationships with people I love. To cook for people you have to be willing to serve. Being willing to serve and nurture is often perceived to be a weakness. Especially for women.
So - years ago - I was so concerned about appearing tough and untouchable (or feeling tough and untouchable) that I refused to associate myself with any of the traits I thought were demeaning - the talents and activities I associated with subservience and femininity.
Then I married the love of my life and had babies. Appearing strong didn't help me in the slightest. Actually being tough enough to raise a family was what mattered. For me, this personal strength requires the base of a strong, secure family... for which my husband is absolutely essential. Happy, thriving kids are a necessity. As it turns out (for us), the talents and skills my mother taught me - which I had rejected as overly domestic - are very handy for giving my husband the respite he needs from his work and giving my kids a stable, healthy place to learn and grow.
None of this requires gourmet food or a perfectly organized and sanitary home. I just find the whole process more enjoyable when I put my whole heart and mind into doing the best I can for my family. They deserve no less. So that's my sappy little explanation for how an angry distrustful girl who hated life found the joie de vivre.
With that, here's the pumpkin bread recipe some of my friends have requested (my friend Daisy confirmed, today, that it really is the best pumpkin bread ever).
Sara's Fabulous Pumpkin Bread
15 oz. (about 2 C.) pumpkin puree
1 C. vegetable oil
2/3 C. water
2 tsp. vanilla
3 C. white sugar
3.5 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp. ground cloves
0.25 tsp. ground ginger
1. Preheat oven to 350'
2. Liberally butter 3 (7"x3") loaf pans and thoroughly coat them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture
3. Cream eggs and sugar until light and fluffy... use your stand mixer and let it really whip up
4. Add remaining wet ingredients (I usually leave this blending in the mixer at about speed 4)
5. In separate bowl, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients (sifting or whisking them together)
6. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture JUST UNTIL BLENDED
(over-stirring will overdo the gluten structuring and make the bread tough)
7. Pour into prepared pans, sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar, and place on the center rack of preheated oven
8. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the loaves pass the clean toothpick test
When you take the bread out of the oven, DON'T let it cool in the pans. Immediately turn them out onto clean kitchen towels or cooling racks. This preserves the sugary crispness of the crust.