Spiced pumpkin bread pudding with fresh whipped cream is mouthwateringly delicious. (Kathy D’Agostino photo)
“Thanksgiving dinner takes 18 hours to prepare. It is consumed in 12 minutes. Halftime takes 12 minutes. This is not a coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck
I spent a lot of time this past summer reading. Because of the considerable amount of rain, my gardening took a back seat. I happened to read and reread some of Andy Rooney’s books. Many of you may remember Andy from a segment at the end of “60 Minutes” every week. I always loved his writing and his perspective on everyday issues. I remember one about Thanksgiving. He said that, in his opinion, there ought to be a law against any mention of Christmas before December. He said Thanksgiving should be about family, togetherness, watching football and focusing on the things in our lives we should be grateful for.
I remember Thanksgiving as a child, waking to the smell of the turkey in the oven as early as 7 a.m. We always ate earlier than most, as the cows had to be milked at 4:30. There were Thanksgivings when the snow was so deep that we kids played outside until we were exhausted. I think back with gratitude for the warm memories I have of those holidays. Simple as they were, they were special.
If someone told me back then that I would someday live in Maine, I would have thought they had reached for the dinner wine a bit too often. Yet here we are in the autumn of our lives. As fall sets in and October gives way to November, my mind once again turns to Thanksgiving and the things in my life that I am grateful for. As with most, the things I am most thankful for are my family, friends and health.
We have three wonderful children who bring us so much pride and joy. They are accomplished and responsible adult children who are now parents themselves. That means we have eight wonderful grandchildren who enrich our lives with their antics and the happiness that only children can bring. Their laughter is an elixir that renews us regularly.
As for friends, we are truly blessed. Despite the difficulty of making friends later in life, my husband and I have managed to connect with some of the nicest people we’ve ever met right here in Harpswell. When we get together it means good food, wonderful conversation, and a lot of fun and laughter. Entering the depths of winter, these gatherings sustain us all. Nothing is better than having a warm, cozy fire and socializing with folks we have grown to love.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert, so this month’s column will focus on a tasty dessert that features a linchpin of the harvest season — pumpkin! I got this recipe from Les Klein. She is a marvelous cook and a volunteer with Harpswell Aging at Home, as well as a member of Cooking at 43° North’s Kitchen Cabinet. A retired English teacher, she and her partner moved to Harpswell in 2013 to fulfill their passion for living near the ocean.
As Les put it, her recipe for spiced bread pudding “is simple and utterly, mouthwateringly delicious. It’s reminiscent of the best eggnog you’ve ever tasted.” She was spot on. This is indeed wonderful and rich. Serve warm with a bit of fresh whipped cream and you have yourself a winner.
So, it’s that time of year again. Time to hunker down, fire up the wood stove, adjust the thermostat and fill the house with wonderful aromas from the kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving!
Spiced pumpkin bread pudding
Softened, unsalted butter for the dish
2 15-ounce cans pumpkin
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 pound challah or brioche (I got my bread unsliced, sliced it into thick slices, then cubed it into large cubes.)
Position rack in center of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter 9-by-13 or similar baking dish. Whisk everything in a very large bowl until well blended. Fold in the bread and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Re-toss and transfer to baking dish. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean (40-45 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be dusted with powdered sugar and served with whipped cream. Enjoy!
Cooking at 43° North, a program of Harpswell Aging at Home, brings Harpswell residents together for cooking programs, in person and online. Watch the Anchor calendar for listings.
HAH always needs cooks for its Meals in a Pinch program, which provides nutritious meals to older residents in need of emergency assistance. For more information, contact Julie Moulton at 207-330-5416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.