A while back my kids, like most people in this Pizza-Is-A-Vegetable country, thought pumpkins were useful only for jack-o-lanterns and pie. With the addition of a new puppy to the house, they learned that pumpkins can also regulate a dog’s digestive tract, which might sound gross but the benefit so vastly outweighs the inherent disgustingness that even the most squeamish among them appreciates this.
However, one of the first things we did when we moved into this house was to eliminate as much grass as possible, replacing it (with the not-so-energetic assistance of the kids) with ever-growing vegetable and herb gardens. Pumpkins take up a large corner of the main garden; not huge, carve-and-then-throw-away pumpkins, but several of the edible variety.
I used to think that involving them in the act of planting vegetables, squash and such would increase the likelihood that they would eat them. After all, you put the seed in the ground, you water it, you see the magic of life right in front of you, and you take it to its natural conclusion, right? Uh, no. So much time passes between the planting and the harvesting that their attention and interest is mostly lost; if any interest remains, the memory of the lack of fun involved with the planting task (planting time here often occurs in some nasty heat and for some reason it always seems to compete against things like apparently life-altering NBA games, college football draft day, stuff like that) overshadows any lingering desire they may have to taste the fruit of their labors.
However, the picking part is always fun, especially when it comes to the pumpkins. Picking tomatoes can quickly grow old, as it sometimes takes a while to get through them all. Picking carrots is dirty. Picking zucchini is prickly. But picking pumpkins is like a treasure hunt with a huge, orange payoff at the end. Just when you think you’ve got them all, one kid goes upstairs to look out her bedroom window overlooking the garden, and from that new vantage point she can yell down to her brother exactly where the next one is hiding. The funny part is that it’s really a pretty small garden; but even I have gone outside and been completely surprised by the seemingly sudden appearance of a new, ripe pumpkin that I swear wasn’t there the day before. It doesn’t hurt that when mom sends you out to the garden to pick stuff, the non-pickers usually get sent to do other things like take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, move the laundry, and other not-so-interesting jobs. So while I’d love to dreamily believe that their enthusiasm for garden harvesting is inspired by nature and the allure of organic produce, I know deep down that at this point it’s probably nothing more than just a distaste for all other household chores.
All the same, the act of picking produce occurs so closely in conjunction with the preparation and eating of said produce that some of the magical aspects of doing that picking greatly increase the chance that they’ll actually eat it. This proved true recently when I combined several of their favorite things into one tasty dish — stuffing things full of other things, fondue (see Fun is My Middle Name), bread, and stuff they picked themselves.
#15: Pumpkin Fondue
I found a simple fondue recipe served inside a pumpkin on Epicurious, but it seems a bit rich and admittedly boring. The pumpkin fondue we make here is absolutely delicious — and very customizable. I throw extra sauteed mushrooms or shallots or fennel in it sometimes (depending on which kids are home, because kid #4 is still a non-mushroom-eater), but pieces of cut apple would be great too. Of course bacon would be wonderful, but since I don’t have a problem getting kids here to eat bacon, and because I use it as my own version of MSG to get anything and everything to taste better to them, I find that this dish just doesn’t need it. This is also a great potluck (dirty word, I know) dish, too.
Find the recipe for Pumpkin Fondue here, on my site.
The List currently sits at 15…