A couple of days ago, around 4pm, I found myself in front of a bowl of lentil soup, watching tendrils of steam dance lazily in a shaft of autumnal sunlight. They were rising - not from my very late lunch - but from an enormous stainless steel bowl heaped with chunks of freshly roasted pumpkin. Bemused, I followed the light across the dining room table, taking in the curved orange slabs cooling on a baking sheet and the stacks of paler slices awaiting their turn in the oven, and wondered how I came to be in the middle of an indeterminately large task on what was supposed to be a slow day.
The strange thing was, it still felt like a slow day. My convalescing husband had called in sick before we decided not to take our son to the doctor. Though not quite up for tackling computer development, he had recovered enough energy and brain power to meander through the supermarket in search of storage solutions for our anticipated mounds of pumpkin puree. The kids were both sick, but needed only rest and fluids, and were feeling just crummy enough to take them without a fight. Once I'd called in my preschooler's absence, the whole day stretched ahead of me, without the usual scaffolding of school, meals, naps, and bedtime defining what else I could accomplish. So as the feverish toddler snoozed the day away, his nauseous sister was content to recline on the couch with a ready supply of gingerale and jello, leaving Mommy free to tackle the two-day-old jack-o-lanterns.
Processing pumpkins isn't the kind of task I would have thought up on my own (I usually just open a can), but our house guests had picked up these gigantic gourds for a song, transformed them into beautiful lanterns for their kids, and preserved them uncharred through Halloween night by using battery operated candles. They intended to cook them down and had offered to split the spoils. Given that my freezer space is plentiful (thanks to my in-laws' garage) and my fridge space is not, I figured I could pick up the process they'd begun the night before and, between the four of us, the job could be done before nightfall...or at least before midnight.
I don't know if it was due to ignorance, or the novelty of focusing on a single task, but the amount of time and effort involved in turning squash into mush didn't faze me at all. I didn't even blink when my husband came home with chickens to roast for supper, seeing as the oven was going to be on all day anyhow. Once I finished with the adventure of carving it up, thankfully with all my digits - and my table top - intact, the easy rhythm of roasting all that pumpkin was actually relaxing. Not a lot of thought involved, just pan in, pan out, with the occasional poke of a fork.
I get far more stressed about our mountains of laundry, or trying to squeeze in a trip to the grocery store between naptime and supper prep. Perhaps I've become so accustomed to budgeting for the frequent random interference of small children that doing anything without them seems simple by comparison. Perhaps I was unconsciously banking on someone taking over, even if I didn't know when. Or, perhaps, I just tend to make mountains out of molehills. Action without excessive thought might be good for me once in a while.
In the meantime, I would really appreciate some pumpkin recipes. My current repertoire consist solely of pumpkin pie.