Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

Delving deep into history can be fascinating – even if you’re not by nature a history lover. Can you guess why we know that “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” probably came from the U.S. – and not England, as so many other Mother Goose rhymes did? Because the English weren’t familiar with pumpkins when it was written (and, apparently, they still aren’t big pumpkin fans).

From Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Mother Goose.  Chicago, [1915].  
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

I admire Peter for being a pumpkin eater – but egads, he kept his wife in a pumpkin shell? And – as a naive little kid – I was supposed to read that and think it’s okay? It’s all for fun? And, actually, the story gets more sinister when you read that supposedly it was about unfaithful wives and murder!

Or how about another familiar ditty from Mother Goose

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. 
She gave them some broth without any bread; 
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Oh and there’s so much more. Babies falling from cradles (Hush-a-bye, Baby, on the tree top), drowned pussy cats (Ding Dong Bell), lady bugs with burning babies (Lady-bird-Lady-bird, fly away home), starving dogs (Old Mother Hubbard), blind mice (no doubt you know that one.).

There may be some complex political references in the rhymes, but they’re tricky to figure out w/o Wikipedia or some web search or in-depth historical knowledge. Who could possibly know that “Mary Mary, Quite Contrary” may be about England’s Bloody Mary – and “Ring Around the Roses” about the Bubonic Plague? It’s just more fun stuff for the young’uns to think about!

The cover of Eulalie Osgood Grover’s Mother Goose.  Chicago, [1915].  

Have you ever wondered who this delightfully fun Mother Goose was? In 1697 a Frenchman, Charles Perrault, wrote “Contes de ma mère l’Oye,” which gets credit as the original Mother Goose, but it’s mostly comprised of fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots. According to my 1915 edition of MG, there has been speculation that a Boston grandmother, Mistress Elizabeth Goose (I kid you not) told these stories and her son-in-law assembled her ditties and published them as Mother Goose’s Melodies for Children in 1719. Our 1916 edition of The Real Mother Goose states that the rhymes were first published by John Newberry in 1791.

Our version is the Fifty-Fourth printing of this 1916 classic, released in 1970, just before our daughter was born. We were ready to give her nightmares!

Digging out our 1916 Mother Goose book gave Andy pause about the bedtime tales he told our kids and our grandkids when they were little. Had he ruined their lives? See today’s Andy’s Corner.

But back to eating pumpkins. My grandmother may have sometimes made her own pumpkin puree (using the small pie pumpkins, of course) for her wonderful pumpkin pie, but I’m too lazy. Canned pumpkin works fine for me – and anyone who wants to simplify things. And there are so many great pumpkin recipes that it’s a shame we mostly think of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving. Here are two winner recipes for pumpkin (eaters). And because I like pumpkin seeds maybe even better than I like pumpkin, let me remind you of some of my favorite recipes with pumpkin seeds….for snacking, for dipping, for a salad, for breakfast, for tacos (of course!).

Pumpkin Date Torte

Pumpkin Date Torte

Thanks to Katie, our dear Baton Rouge friend, for this recipe.  Her family prefers it to pumpkin pie.

  • 1/2 c finely chopped dates
  • 1/2 c finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 2/3 c pumpkin (cooked from pie pumpkins – or canned; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  •  1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • sweetened whipped cream to serve (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9″ cake pan or pie pan.

Mix the dates, walnuts, and flour together, being sure to break up the pieces of dates; the flour helps separate them.

Melt the butter; add the brown sugar and blend well.  Stir in the pumpkin and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Mix together all of the dry ingredients and then add that to the pumpkin mixture.  Mix thoroughly.  

Stir in the floured dates and walnuts. Scrape mixture into pan and smooth with a spatula.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges are browned and the top is springy when you press on it.  Serve slightly warm, with whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Adapted from Epicurious

  • 1 c canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 c whipping cream (or substitute half & half for a lighter version)
  • 8 tablespoons raw sugar or golden brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla, then spices and salt. Bring cream just to boil in medium saucepan. VERY gradually whisk hot cream into pumpkin mixture.

Divide mixture among eight 3×2-inch ramekins. Divide ramekins between 2 large roasting pans. Add enough hot water to pans to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set in center, about 35 minutes. Remove from water.

Chill custards until cold, about 6 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon raw sugar over pumpkin custard in each ramekin. Using kitchen torch, melt sugar until deep amber. (Alternatively, use broiler. Place ramekins on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with brown sugar [not raw sugar] and melt directly under broiler until deep amber.) Refrigerate 15 minutes to allow sugar to harden. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Keep chilled

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

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