The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Dec 7 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg Have you wondered what happens to the pumpkins after Halloween?  Several were bobbing up and down in water from a culvert by my house.  Store pumpkins and many still had the attached labels.  The wildlife had already begun to nibble the orange globes in their […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Dec 7 2019

Abandoned pumpkins in a local stream

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Have you wondered what happens to the pumpkins after Halloween?  Several were bobbing up and down in waterfrom a culvert by my house.  Storepumpkins and many still had the attached labels.  The wildlife had already begun to nibble theorange globes in their version of bobbing for apples. Pumpkins were lying aboutnext to a deserted corn field, abandoned and forgotten after Halloween andThanksgiving.  Is Charlie Brown out theresomewhere still waiting for the Great Pumpkin? My hollowed out and carved Halloween pumpkin is sitting outside,beginning to cave into the middle, turning into a flattened effigy of itsformer self.  The other solid pumpkinslowly disintegrates, exposing seeds that will attempt to germinate the nextspring.

Faced with limited cookware and even less time, Whole Foods was our Thanksgiving source.   Their health conscious bakers supplied the turkey breast, stuffing, gravy and go-withs.  Everything was heated in the oven for about an hour except the cranberry sauce.   The consensus was, surprisingly, the meal was tasty and fast but the pecan pie just wasn't up to our standards.   Next pie will come from my mother's 4 eggs, dark Karo syrup recipe.

All ready for Saint Nicholas Day

Saint Nicholas Day came the night of December 5th.  Nicholas of Myra (270-343) Greek bishop fromTurkey/Greek border area, was known for his many miracles.  He had a reputation for giving gifts andputting coins in people's shoes. St. Nicholas was the inspiration for Santa andFather Christmas.  In Europe, childrenplace a boot or shoe by the front door or in front of the fireplace at night todiscover them filled with small gifts or coins the next morning.  A large milk chocolate St. Nicholas oftenappears.

Christmas Eve and Christmas last 2 two days, but if you celebrate Yuletide, you can keep fortifying your spirit with goodness from December 22nd 2019 to January 2nd 2020.   Yule is rooted in pagan beliefs as far back at the Iron Age and was tied with many festivities during the winter season.   The Yule log (whole tree or chocolate sponge cake covered in chocolate buttercream frosting), Yule songs (Deck the Halls, Carol of the Bells, Holly and the Ivy, the Wassail Song), Yule boar (tied in with ham at Christmas) and other traditions are rooted in history.   European folklore tells of the Wild Hunt when a troop of supernatural hunters annually fly though the sky.   This myth may have Herne the Hunter, the Norse god Odin, the goddess Hecates or even the angel Gabriel as leader.   However you do it, make the most of this upcoming winter season.  

The squirrels and crows rediscover the feeder

'The crows finally stopped coming and here you are, puttingout more birdseed' was the comment made this Thanksgiving. I had been gone afew weeks but was now back in Maryland.  It took five crows, three squirrels andseveral smaller birds one day to rediscover the seeds, bread and leftovers fromour small feast.  It took a team of fourlandscapers equipped with loud leaf blowers to blast away the birdseed andbread the next morning.  The neighborhoodwas under assault by leaf puffing dragons emitting horrific groans and roarsthroughout the morning.  The four foottall freshly cut Christmas tree standing in a bucket of water on the front porchwas toppled, splashing water across the concrete, exposing the tree stub to airwhile the branches were filled with leaves. On the other hand, the porch was squeaky clean.  

Weather in Maryland has been cool and crisp, but the nightsare cold.  The autumn decorations thatlined the roads in the little village of Countryside were taken down the dayafter Thanksgiving.  Large red bows andgreenery now grace the light poles. Early Black Friday morning my friend was picked up by an limousinedriver and whisked away to the airport. He had finagled a first class ticket on Emirates Airline to the MiddleEast.  We tried to not compare our Oklahomato Maryland trip on a fully-booked Southwest jet.  After all, we each did get a complimentary non-alcoholicdrink and a small bag of Lorna Doone cookies.

The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airplane in the world.   It has two decks, the lower for the steerage class (439 seats) and the upper for first class (10 seats which are actually full recliners) and business (76 seats).   There was even a residence apartment with bedroom, living room and en-suite bathroom.   In- flight Wi-Fi and external cameras kept the passengers entertained.   Each first class seat was partially surrounded by tastefully designed shelves.   One housed a fold out drawer that contained the hot towel, champagne and dates.   Another served as a computer station.  He made a reservation to freshen up in the shower spa.   Only three were in first class.   My friend stopped chatting when his smoked salmon and macaroni with lobster arrived.

All you need for a fruit cake. Just add flour and eggs.

Fruitcake.  Yum.  My fruitcake is a confection of rich nuts,dried fruits and flour all bound together in a sugar-honey egg mixture.  It is not the cloyingly sweet fruitcake sold onthe market.  A better description wouldbe whisky or brandy soaked fruit and nut ambrosia.  The family fruitcake legend:  My grandmother made her fruitcake at myfolk's house one year.  She discoveredthe aged Johnny Walker Whisky my dad had hidden under the sink and liberallydoused her creation with the fiery liquid. My father practically blew a gasket, but being a good sport, he focusedon eating as much fruitcake he could, figuring he'd get his whisky one way orthe other.

The best nuts for fruitcake are those cracked at the tableto assure freshness.  This tedioustime-consuming work leaves fingers tender and sore.  Pieces of shells show up for weeks everywherein the house!  Walnuts, pecans, Brazilnuts, hazelnuts and almonds may vary from year to year. Fresh non-rancid Hazelnutsand Brazil nuts are hard to find.

Unsulphured apricots, dried apples, dates, prunes, raisins,pineapple and even candied fruit may find their way into the batter.  The angel food cake pan has never made anangel food cake, but has participated in dozens of fruitcakes.  Grocery sack brown paper lines the metal surfacesand buttered on both sides.  The batteris spooned inside and the fruitcake cooks until done.  The pan is put on cooling rack and alcoholpoured on top of the fruitcake.  Whentotally cold, the cake is removed from pan and paper, wrapped in cheeseclothand soaked with more alcohol.  Thefruitcake is then tightly wrapped in plastic and placed in a tin which sits ona cold closet floor for at least four weeks. 

The flavor develops as the fruitcake ages. So important.   Remembering the fruitcake after so long is even more important.   No problem.   Fruitcake is great on the fourth of July!

Unharvested pumpkins in a field