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Lessons from Pumpkin Bread

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | December 06, 2008

"No one who cooks cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers." 
Laurie Colwin

About 30 years ago our youngest son, Kevin, brought home pumpkin bread and a recipe distributed to his third grade class by their teacher, Miss Glaus. That recipe was an immediate hit at the Meyer household and every year since then we have made loaves and loaves of that delicious holiday delicacy. 

Since the recipe came from a wonderful teacher, it is only fitting that I title this essay "Lessons from Pumpkin Bread." Here are four of them. 

  • You never know where you may find something of quality. None of us would have ever predicted that a simple recipe from a third grade teacher could become a permanent Meyer family tradition. Life is often like that. Surprises come from the most unexpected places. 
    C.S. Lewis wrote a book titled Surprised by Joy documenting the dramatic adventure of something new.
  • Something of quality always stands the test of time. Almost 30 years is a long time for a recipe to last in a family. But every time we mix the ingredients for another batch of pumpkin bread, we talk about our third grade son coming home with Miss Glaus' recipe. 
    Quality always stands the test of time. Whether it is a good book or good music, time enriches the meaning and the message of the creator.
  • Something of quality needs a little bit of spice to taste good. What would pumpkin bread be without cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon? I sampled the batter without them and I doubt if anyone would want to eat it like that. 
    Life needs a little bit of spice, also. And nothing adds spice to life like humor. I can only imagine how boring and bland my life would be without Evie's (my wife) sparkling humor. 
    Our adversity can add spice to life. As Robert Schuller once said, "Tough times never last but tough people do." And out of those tough times new flavors enter our lives.
  • Something of quality can also be expanded into something of quantity. Our pumpkin bread recipe makes about 11 loaves. But almost every time we make it, we double the recipe thus making 22 loaves so we can give some away. 
    If something is good, doubling it can make it even better. Good will can be expanded to influence others far beyond what we could do ourselves. Whether we "pay it forward" or plant a tree, someone later will be blessed if we expand the quantity of our quality.

By now you probably wish you could have this wonderful pumpkin bread recipe. If you want to make 11 medium loaves, here it is: 12 beaten eggs; 6c pumpkin; 3c water; 3c oil; 9c sugar; 10c flour; 3t cloves; 3t nutmeg; 3t cinnamon; 6t salt; 6t baking powder; 6t baking soda. Mix. Then butter and flour 11 medium loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 325˚ F. 

Julia Child said, "Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving or music." 

But no matter how creative we may be in the kitchen, some still feel like Carol Siskind who said, "I can't cook. I use a smoke detector as a timer." 

I suppose we could think of more pumpkin bread lessons but rather than make lists, I would rather taste some just out of the oven. And since I just heard the timer (not the smoke detector) go off, a fresh batch of pumpkin bread is ready for the holiday table. 

Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu