March 27, 2013

Cinderella (or Cendrillon en français) is the story about a girl being transformed into a princess. But it is also the story of a plain yellow pumpkin being transformed into a golden carriage.

Yes, spring is almost upon us and if this were a real cooking blog it would be utterly unfashionably unseasonable to talk about the autumnal delights of winter squash. However, at 42 degrees and falling outside, I am not exactly expecting strawberries and asparagus in the immediate future.

Maybe someone else with craftier skills could turn a pumpkin into a carriage, but I am content to turn mine into soups and pies. I have every intention to write about pumpkin soup in January, and made a pumpkin soup for such a purpose. But though this is not a cooking blog, it is an eating blog, and it would be antithetical to write about something at best mediocre–much less share it with a special guest!

So let us travel back in time to early December and talk about pumpkin pie.

There is a season for pumpkin pie, and most people seem to agree that season is Thanksgiving. However, as much as Thanksgiving is about unbridled gluttony, it is also about family gatherings, and family gatherings mean compromises. My ideal Thanksgiving feast would probably involve something like turkey vindaloo, and then I would be eating alone–sad. So really having the perfect meal on Thanksgiving is not the point, and sometimes pumpkin pie is swapped for pumpkin cheesecake and as much as that seems wrong wrong wrong, it is the company that counts. I can make pumpkin pie any of the other 364 days of the year, more or less.

My favorite pie is the fleeting sour cherry followed by a four way tie between peach, blueberry, pumpkin and malted chocolate pecan (which I haven’t actually tasted yet, yet know I will love). Really, this is mostly a confession for my love of pie insides. I am relatively ambivalent about crust (even though I have mastered the perfect flaky crust). So when I am with company I tend to give my crust away, and when I am without I make something that is more of a pudding.

In early December this took the shape of the most ridiculous recipe ever:

Take about half a cup of vanilla yogurt, one egg, a generous pinch of salt and about a cup of roasted pumpkin. Blend together thoroughly until very very smooth. Pour into a buttered dish and bake on medium (thanks oven!) until set. As I recall, I dusted the top with freshly grated nutmeg, but that could be skipped.

This was as much pumpkin pie as is pumpkin cheesecake, but it still hit all the right notes and could probably be eaten all in one sitting without feeling too guilty.

I did not eat it all in one sitting because, naturally, I had a guest. The man perhaps responsible for making the impossible possible.

No, I am not talking about Lobachevski and hyperbolic geometry! This guy:

perraultCharles Perrault (1628-1703) the writer of Cendrillon and other less optimistic tales.

I learned about M. Perrault in a French conversation group at straight away knew that I had to invite him over. I am terrifically fond of fairy tales, or contes en français.

So as soon as the not pie emerged from the oven, I called him round for an afternoon tea and a good warming story. As it so happened, this was the one day of the year when my apartment has a fireplace and two very cozy chairs surrounding it. With our plates and mugs perched on the arms, he began.

“Il était une fois…”