In the End There Was No End


Beginning Monday, February 6, The Austerity Kitchen will appear as a column at The New Inquiry. This site will serve as an archive and will continue to present recipes and historical vignettes from time to time. The new Kitchen will feature essays on various topics culinary and cultural, anecdotes, recipes, book reviews, vintage illustrations and photographs.

An Autumn Treat: Baked Pumpkin with Milk

A 1903 article from the American Kitchen Magazine tells us that in days past families enjoyed a delicious and unusual supper dish. “From a hard-shelled pumpkin,” the author writes, “a section was cut around the stem, thus making a cover, like that of the Jack-o’-lantern, the seeds and fibers were scraped out, and the space filled with rich, sweet milk.” The pumpkin’s top was “replaced and the pumpkin was put into the brick oven, where it stayed for hours until the tissues of the gourd were soft and had absorbed much of the milk.”

Serving this dish presented no unnecessary mess; the cooked pumpkin was simply placed on the table, its hard shell acting as a bowl. Diners then scooped out a bit of pulp and a bit of milk, and ate the two together like “baked sweet apples and milk.”

Below is a similar recipe from Hispanic Kitchen. It originates from Mexico and is usually served in autumn at Day of the Dead festivals. The West Indian pumpkin, which is sometimes called a “fairy tale” pumpkin, is the tastiest variety to use in recipes of this sort.

Pumpkin Atole

1 medium-sized pumpkin
1-2 cups of brown sugar, or 1-2 piloncillo cones
1 quart of milk
cinnamon sticks
pinch of star anise

Cut the pumpkin into wedges and remove the seeds. Boil with cinnamon sticks until soft. Remove the skin if desired. Blend the pumpkin until creamy. Boil it again, this time adding the quart of milk (you can add more or less to make a thinner or thicker atole), the brown sugar (again, you can vary according to your desired level of sweetness) and the pinch of star anise. Boil on low heat until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Serve with a cinnamon stick as a garnish.