It is nearly Halloween. The time when kids go trick-or treating and people maul and manhandle poor, helpless pumpkins by carving them into evil, grinning masks with teeth that could have used a visit to the orthodontist and a few good braces.
But besides carving up pumpkins for Jack-o'-lanterns, they can also be used for food. In fact, it's preferable.
Preferable unless..... You are cooking a pumpkin recipe with........ KIDS!!!!
This is what I did on October 15th 2009, at 13.00 o'clock 'till 15.00 o'clock as part of a team consisting of 5 adults (teacher, 3 mothers and me) and 21 kids, aged around 8 years old. Good Grief!!!
The menu was simple enough. Salad, pumpkin/parsnip soup with bread and garlic butter and marshmallows dipped in melted chcolate.
The only drawback was that the kids had to make it and we were there to help and supervise them.
Teacher Miek had already prepared the pupmpkins beforehand, having peeled, cooked and mashed them to a thick, bright orange, puree.
What was left was to make the garlic butter, slice bread, make the salad and the marshmalow treats and make the soup: peel, dice and cook the parsnips (= pastinaak), add the pumpkin puree.
Does not seem like much, but Mount Everest does not seem that big either, if you stand away far enough from it.
I was on the garlic butter station. Have you ever tried to make garlic butter with 5 very active kids all at once? No??? Lucky you.
Peeling garlic is a hurdle. It takes some skill to take the skin off the garlic and these cloves did their very best to keep their skins on. Slipping out of small hands and escaping from onder dull knives (can't have sharp knives + kids). That Garlic saw all of the kitchen. Bouncing off the counter, hitting the walls and other kids and skidding over the floor. Finally being stopped by a heavy kid's foot stomping on it.
Well, on the plus side, the garlic clove was peeld and crushed.
Does your young son love putting gell in his hair? Listen ladies, you can save on hair gell expenses by using butter or margerine. Just get them to mash the cubes of butter with a fork to a paste and you'll have a head of hair so greasy, you can butter your whole loaf bread with it.
How hair can find it's way into butter is known. But how butter can find it's way onto 5 children's heads in 10 seconds is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, flicking bits of butter at each other from a fork does help the proces. Wiping your sweaty brow (yes, mashing soft butter cubes with a fork is hard work) with a buttery hand is even better.
But okay, the garlic butter was finally made (if you like big chunks of stomped-on garlic in your butter, I'll send you the left-overs).
Similar stuff happened with the parsnips and the iceberg lettuce and tomatoes but I was too busy trying to maintain some semblance of control at the butter station to see that. Besides, those kids were not in my group, so it was not my problem.
Of course, wearing a helmet might be advisable if one does not like hard bits of parsnip hitting one's nose.
Melting chocolate in a microwave can be dangerous too. Especially if you leave some wrapping paper among the broken up chocobits. Did you know those bits of paper can catch fire in the micro wave? No? Well now you do!
So always check that your chocolate bits are paper and foil free. Unless, of course, you like Choc. trés flambé and/or want a new micro wave, or even a new kitchen.
Well, finally the soup was made, the salad was ready and the bread and garlic butter was foot print and hair free.
The table had been set... sort of... and everyone could get down to the serious business of eating.
Luckily that went well. The kids were proud of their work and ate the soup or at least tasted it before screwing up their face and saying they did not like pumpkin and all the bread and butter was gone.
The marshmallows went down well too.
The mothers loved those! They would have fought the kids for them, but luckily there was enough and also, they licked the chocolate out of the empty bowl after they'd helped the kids dip the marshmallows.
After the meal the kitchen was cleaned up,as was the dining area and everything was left just as neat and tidy as when we arrived.
Everyone went home with a smile on their face, albeit mine was a bit forced.
When I arrived home I sat and stared at the wall for about 30 minutes. Just being Zen... Or recovering from shell-shock.
In all, it was good day, but I made teacher Miek promise me that she'd never ask me for this kind of help again because I'd then suddenly have to go away on business to Outer Mongolia for at least a month.