All weekend it seemed like the blender was grumbling and gurgling along as fresh pumpkin pureed, the mixer just humming through thick batter, and the metal walls of the gas oven were panging from the 350 degree heat.
From that heat you’d say it was Hell’s kitchen this weekend, but we’re not talking about NYC here. We’re talking about this little hipster harvest tucked away in upstate New York.
We all know hipsters, the new artisans of metro America, who may actually end up saving the economy with their homemade handicraft of food and wears. What’s really fascinating about the hipster culture though, is the need to take it back to the old school. Making things naturally and simplistic, the way products were traditionally made decades and decades ago. Although not being hipster myself, I can identify with that mentality, making a product of good, whole ingredients. I guess I could be a closet hipster or am I just trapped somewhere between a homesteader and a hipster? It doesn’t matter too much in the end, but what did matter was the food I made completely from scratch the way it should be done.
The plan was to get up at 9 a.m. to start the busy weekend in the kitchen. Fail. Quarter to noon. Already shooting myself in the foot, the only thing I had going for me was that I wasn’t hung over… Much. I yanked open the cupboard, pulled out the flour, sugar, and organic shortening, turned and grabbed the yeast from the fridge. Mixed and kneaded, I left the bread dough to rise and checked the time, 12:22, I plucked the cheese from the fridge and then got started on the quiche.
First things first, I’ll sear the brussel sprouts, drop in the apple to carmelize, and whip up the cream and eggs I bought at a local farm, then sprinkle with gruyere cheese. A grander quiche has never been conceived, I thought. I pre-made the dill infused crust the previous night, so I only needed to concentrate on the filling, and the rising bread.
Punch down the dough, divide in two, let rise once more. My brain thought in recipe jargon. I popped the quiche in the oven. Looked to the clock, 1:15. Trim, peel, boil. The three words that came to mind as I spied the beets, I bought from a local organic CSA, sitting in the corner on the counter. Butter, being the fourth word, as I saute the beet greens and later tossed in the beets to the local buttery mix.
Another grandiose idea I came up with earlier that week, while out at a farmstand in a neighboring county, was to make pumpkin bread. From an actual pumpkin. Not canned pumpkin, or a mix from a store. The real deal like people actually used to make. So I bought a pumpkin. Not for decorating, not for carving. For me, this pumpkin was to be gloriously eaten as a bread mixed with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
Sliced, seeded, lain out on baking sheet I flung the raw, orange delicacy into the oven to cook. Though not before I first took out the quiche, and then later on the finely browned bread. On to the stove top where the rainbow chard, bought at the same local farmstand, was cooking down with garlic, onions, and a balsamic reduction. There was a harmony in the kitchen that day. It felt like the kitchen was being used for good. For something wholesome. Not just a place to reheat prepackaged foods.
The smell of the roasting pumpkin rose through the air in the kitchen. 2:30 – the clock caught my eye. The brown paper bag sat by the door, it was six pounds of fresh quince I bought at the farmers market a day earlier, the first time I’d noticed them at the market. I guess I’ll go for it, and got set on making fresh quince jam. The sour fruit made a sloshing sound as I rubbed the peeled, and cored quince halves up and down the grater. By the time I was done grating the timer on the oven rang out, like that alarm clock we all hate on Mondays. Swinging around I hit the timer to stop that racket, opening the oven door and pulling out the roasted pumpkin I let it cool, and set my attention back to the jam. Water was boiling, steam rattling the pot lid, so the half-pint jam jars were sterile, and the jam was done cooking on the next burner over. It’s time to ladle this steaming hot rarity into the jars and seal them for the winter.
I sunk the jars of jam back into the canner to finish the process, and got to work mixing the dry ingredients for the pumpkin bread. Finally, the pumpkin cool, I reached into the cupboard for the blender I set it on the counter dropped in the cleaned pumpkin chunks and water. Gurgle, blub, gurgle. Add more water. Now it’s moving, pumpkin blended. Add to wet ingredients and mix to combine, I thought. Pouring the pumpkin evenly into two bread pans, and glancing at the clock it’s nearly 4, then turning my attention to the oven timer, 1 minute to go on the jam. Damn, I want another beer. Too busy though.
Delicately placing the batter filled bread pans centrally in the oven, I turned my attention to the canner and lifted out the jars of jam. Softly I began arranging them on a waiting towel on top of the table. Pop, ping, pop. The lids start to seal. Success, I thought. About another 40 minutes later the timer goes off again, the pumpkin bread is ready. I check the consistency with a toothpick, not quite solid in the middle. I slide the pans back in and close the oven door for a few minutes. On the next inspection, they’re perfect.
I wouldn’t believe any of this if I were you either. However, it’s undeniably a true account of my hipsteresque lifestyle. Question this though, why should I label what I did this weekend? Shouldn’t we all be doing this, labeless, because it’s not only healthy for our bodies, mentally stimulating, but above all isn’t it the way things should be made. Agreeing or denying isn’t really the point I’m trying to make. The message, simply put, is that we can be self-sufficient once again. We can live happier, healthier, simpler lives, if we challenge ourselves and rely on ourselves.