Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pining for Pumpkin

I am here to unmask the unsavory American ex-pat practice of pumpkin hoarding.  Why pumpkins as opposed to, say, Talking Elmo, or the next generation Nintendo Wii, you ask?  As a girl who used to live in Morton, Illinois, Pumpkin Capital of the World, I too used to be baffled as to why anyone would stockpile it.  Here's the local lowdown on the lowly squash.

First of all, it's common knowledge that British people don't know what the heck to do with pumpkin.  It's starting to weasel its way into British cuisine among other commonly roasted winter vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes, but the mere thought of putting pumpkin in anything resembling a dessert makes them want to pull their knitted tea cozies over their heads.  It's yet another American import best left to go the way of Pepsi Clear and New Kids on the Block.  Granted, I did lay my hands on a small pumpkin meant only for decor purposes.

It's simply not enough, I say.  I need hardcore canned pumpkin.  I don't want to spend my weekend splitting, scooping and roasting a paltry, petite pumpkin for the whopping cup of pulp I'd get after four hours.  Yes, I am just that lazy.  Things got tricky when I found out too late that the UK grocery store Waitrose carries canned pumpkin as a novelty item.  I arrived much too late.  Word had long gotten out on the ex-pat email chain about the latest canned pumpkin sighting, and my fellow pumpkin pie eaters had stripped the joint bare.  There wasn't a gourd within a twenty-mile radius.  The empty shell of my spiced pumpkin daydreams had been smashed by loud, ice-seeking hoodlums.  No pie, cake, bars, or even pumpkin chili like I used to dish out at the Morton Pumpkin Festival.  I despaired in aisle five.

At home, I get no sympathy.  Pumpkin pie is repulsive to the British.  When I would get my hands on a piece in the U.S., I could use it like Deepwoods Off on poor Chumley.  An American friend was bold enough to make a pie with the canned gold for her English relatives, but it was clear none of them enjoyed her handiwork.  When she gave a blanket dispensation for not finishing their respective slices, half a dozen forks chinked on dessert plates with puffs of relief.  Tea was served to aid in recovery.

Think of those in pumpkin poverty this holiday and raise a piece for me.  Don't forget the Cool-Whip.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Quorn! What's it good for?

If you ask Chumley to answer this question, his reply would be a resounding, "Absolutely nothing!"  It seems we have had a bit of a barney over meat replacement.  Here's my side of the story.

I accidentally ordered Quorn Chili in a restaurant, thinking it would contain little bits of corn.  It sounded interesting. It was officially good, despite the lack of niblets.  As I learned later, Quorn is a meat replacement, or mycoprotien, as it's more properly known.  It's a fungus among us: originally discovered growing in a field in Buckinghamshire in the 1960's and developed into a very successful meat replacement in Europe.  According to its website, it's grown industrially in large vats and bound together with egg white to make it the texture of ground beef.  It's also formed into countless other meatless items: fish-free fingers, chickenless tidbits, and nowhere near the deli slices. 

When I looked up the nutritional information, it was almost unbelievable.  It has no cholesterol, half the calories, and only 3% fat.  Half a million Quorn entrees are eaten in the UK every day.  It blends flavors into whatever it's cooked with, so I decided to put Quorn mince into our next spaghetti bolognese.  Needing to create blind testing conditions, I didn't inform Chumley.  He happily ate it, commented it was good, and was none the wiser.  Just to recreate my study, I did it again with the same result.  The third time, I got the guilts.  After dinner, I confessed.

Chumley looked like he had been poisoned by some rabid eco-terrorist.  It was far worse than when he's been exposed to toxic rhubarb.  (I didn't even mention it being grown in vats - that wouldn't have been therapeutic.)  The fact he had failed to identify it as not meaty on three occasions apparently pulled no weight.  He promptly demanded that I buy more bacon the next time I went shopping.  To get the fungus out of his system, he ate bacon sandwiches for two straight days with a militant determination.  I was sure he would turn to solids.  The pernicious grease was starting to form a permanent slick on all my good skillets.

I've been threatening to make a State Fair blue ribbon recipe out of apples and a can of Spam we were gifted, but I just don't think he can handle that kind of trauma after I damaged his meaty ego.  I just know he would love the chance to regale me with Spam jokes, but it's just too much of a risk.

If you're brave enough to try Quorn and live in the US, look for it at Super Wal-Marts everywhere, or peek in your nearest industrial vat for what I hope is a nice surprise.