A gentle spirit and good soul
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent much of the weekend mowing my yard with the bag attached. Which felt much like vacuuming as most of the leaves got bagged, too, and I filled a large number of the industrial-sized ones, which now rest in my garage. A big job, and something I might complain about were I so inclined. And then there’s the whole Halloween shebang, which is a small job in itself if one goes all-out, which I aspire to, but never really do. A lit pumpkin and a big ol’ bowl of candy (chocolate bars, of course) and a few window clings and scary books is about the extent of the celebration at this house. I don’t have a costume, though. Only some silly round and black-framed glasses which are pretty hilarious in themselves, and a big ol’ fuzzy blonde wig. I’ll drag the fire pit to the driveway and sit out there and smile and have a nice time greeting the neighbor kids.
My heart isn’t in it, though. The news arrived this morning, and there’s a silence in the world that wasn’t there before. It’ll blend in with the other silences, and be there among the din of ordinary life, but if you’ll listen for it, you’ll always hear it: the silence that Mr. Tom Keith, the sound effects man for the show, leaves behind. He passed away only a short stretch of hours ago, and I was so sad to hear.
He was 64 years old, and worked with Mr. Keillor since 1976. I did not know Mr. Keith personally, but I have met him, and what a gentle spirit and good soul. He made me laugh, made so many people laugh, and what a gift to the world to bring such a thing. And now he is gone, and I’ve lit a candle for him, and for the sweetness of laughter.
Here’s a lovely recipe shared by my best friend Angela, who got it from Dorie Greenspan, who got it from her friend Catherine in France, whose husband has a farm just outside of Lyon and pumpkin is one of his crops. That’s how recipes get where they’re going; you pass them on to the world.
A REALLY GOOD STUFFED PUMPKIN
1 pumpkin, about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
4 ounces stale bread, sliced thin and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 ounces cheese, such as Gruyere, Swiss, Blue, Cheddar or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2-4 cloves garlic (to taste), peeled, germ removed and coarsely chopped
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Either line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. For a larger pumpkin, use a Dutch oven, as the pumpkin may collapse a bit. Using a sturdy knife, cut a nice-sized cap off the top of the pumpkin. Clear away any seeds and strings from the cap and set aside while you scoop the seeds and filaments from inside the pumpkin. Save the seeds for roasting if you like. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper and put it on the sheet or in the casserole.
I prefer to toss the bread, cheese and garlic together in a bowl, then pack it into the pumpkin, but you can alternate layers of bread and cheese and scatter the garlic. Either way, fill it well. You might have a little too much filling or you might need to add to it — it’s hard to be precise. Season the cream with salt, pepper and several gratings of fresh nutmeg and pour the cream into the pumpkin, enough to moisten the filling.
Put the cap back in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours — check after an hour — or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbly and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced with a knife. Remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so of baking so that the top could brown. Cut the pumpkin into wedges, and serve it with some of the stuffing, or leave the pumpkin whole and use a big spoon to scoop out pumpkin and filling. You could even scrape the pumpkin into the filling and mix it all up.
Next time, try adding bacon or ham, or herbs (a little thyme might be nice) or pine nuts, or pecans. Makes 2 generous or 4 smaller servings