I hate to say it, but I've been having one of those weeks. I'm not usually the type to wish a day (or a week in this case) to be over. Every day is a gift, we shouldn't squander our time away, and all similar sayings are ones I take to heart. But this week was the kind of gift you desperately wish to exchange, only to find the store has an adamant policy about receipts (which you must have left in your pocket which went through the laundry), and even regifting isn't an option because it's truly a stinker and you don't dislike anyone enough to lay it at their feet no matter how fancy the wrapping. Yeah, that sounds about right. I'll spare you the details, but just know there was more than once where I quietly locked the door to my bedroom, sat in my picture window looking at my beautiful view, and let tears stream down my face in solitude (the jean ripping incident was the proverbial straw that provoked one of those tearful episodes).
I awoke early this morning after far too little sleep, realized my mood was already cloudy, and with great determination fought back using two great tools in my blues-kicking arsenal, Bob Dylan and baked goods. Though I've well documented my lack of love for cooking, there is one thing I always look forward to each autumn: making pumpkin bread. My recipe makes two loaves, so my habit is to keep one and pass the second along to a friend or neighbor. Today was the perfect day for heating up the oven and filling the house with the aroma of fall spices, armed with the knowledge I'd be visiting a friend in the evening. Friends bearing delicious gifts are good friends indeed.
The friend I was visiting just moved house and I didn't know exactly how to find her new home. Being the spectacular friend she is (and also one that happens to have a car and driver unlike ourselves), she offered to pick me up at a halfway point easily accessible via the Metro. This, I thought, was the highlight of my pathetic week. One less thing to be overcomplicated and too much to handle. I wasn't originally going to meet her until 7:00 p.m., but she said 4:15 would work best to pick me up. Extra time with my friend before dinner? No complaints here!
Pumpkin bread still warm from the oven, she collected me and informed me of a small detour she needed to make. We then pulled up to a spa where she informed me she'd paid for an hour massage with my name on it. She shooed me in the door where a week's worth of tension, frustration, and general blah was methodically and professionally drained away. I was a new woman when she returned to bring me back to her house. She got busy in the kitchen and handed me a plate. As if a massage wasn't enough, she'd gone to the bakery and procured one perfect slice of the only baked good in the world I love more than pumpkin bread: carrot cake. I couldn't help it, tears started flowing again. This time it was happiness spilling down my cheeks.
|Especially carrot cake. Especially when you're me.|
There's another saying out there about needing the bad times to make the good times really good. I'll happily proclaim here for all to read that as tough as this week was, I wouldn't trade an icky minute of it for the absolute goodness of having a friend to share my struggles and ease rough times with such a sweet surprise. It makes sailing through future difficulties look like, well, a piece of cake.
I don't know what kind of week you had. Maybe you also need a friend to kidnap you for an hour of tension busting followed by baked goods. And if you do, I wish I could be the one to ease you out of this week and into the blessed release of the weekend. What I can do, however, is offer you the closely-guarded gift of my pumpkin bread recipe and a recommendation to crank up some Bob Dylan (or melancholy artist of your choice) and make some for yourself. And if by some chance you just had the best week of your life, then this recipe is still for you. Bake up a couple loaves and share one with someone who could use love in the form of sweet carbohydrates.
Heather's Holiday Pumpkin Bread
1 15 ounce can of canned pumpkin (or the equivalent of finely pureed cooked pumpkin)
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
3 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1. In large bowl, beat together pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, and eggs until well mixed.
2. In medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir until combined.
3. Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.
4. Grease two loaf pans, evenly divide batter into pans.
5. Bake for 60-65 minutes at 350F/175C until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool 10-15 minutes in pans. Remove, share, enjoy!