The Pumpkin

The Pumpkin

 OK, this is going to sound a bit catty, and I’m kind of ashamed to write this at the expense of my dear friend. But I think it’s an amusing story and for a struggling writer like me, when it comes to ‘the story’; everything is fair game. 

In a previous post I wrote about my garden. The garden to the left of me is rented by my long time friend, Suni.  She’s an expat from Thailand and has been living in the Netherlands for the last 30 years.  She’s an excellent cook and avid (and competitive) gardener.  Even though we’ve been long-time friends, our relationship has been strained as of late.  Probably due to a thousand small things that neither one of us could pinpoint, but together add up to a smoldering rift. 

To start with, my oldest daughter, Rebecca, has a birthday exactly on Halloween.  Halloween, to this day, remains one of my favorite holidays.  I find it so unfortunate that it is just not celebrated here in Holland.  Last year, when my mom was here for her birthday, we carved pumpkins and, like always, I saved the seeds.  We had so much fun that we wanted to plant our own pumpkins this year from the seeds I saved.  Since I bought the already grown pumpkins last year, I have no idea what kind they were.  All I know is some were big and some were small.  I just threw all the seeds in a jar. 

This past March, I started my pumpkin plants indoors along with some butternut and acorn squash plants.  With a few weeks of TLC, I had 18 beautiful plants.  Anyone who ever grew pumpkins knows that even one plant will take over your garden, so what was I to do with 18!?  Share them, of course. So one sunny Sunday afternoon in May, I proudly brought my perfect pumpkin plants to the garden to share with my fellow gardening fanatics.  During transplanting, most of the plant markers got lost or mixed up so I wasn’t sure which plant was which anymore. So, I gave my neighbors first pick with the caveat that ‘you get what you get’ and to leave me 5 plants.  Happily, my neighbors bounced back to their own gardens, arms full with their newly adopted plants.  Suni, taking her share of plants agreed with the caveat and made a comment of letting nature take its course. 

Weeks past and toward the middle of august, my entire garden was a tangle of vines.  Their large leaves reaching sunwards.   Getting curious as to what nature brought me, I start peeking under leaves to discover a beauty of a jack-o-lantern, already the perfect size for carving.  Excitedly, I call my kids over to check it out.  Rebecca takes one look and excitement takes over her whole little body.  She immediately claims it for her own and both kids begin to dance and sing celebrating our success.  Curious to what the commotion is all about, Suni trots her small booted feet over to my garden.  “Look at MY pumpkin”, Rebecca squeals.  Suni pushes back the massive leaf; the curiosity slowly drains to confusion and then rage.  “You!!” , she howls, slowly straightening upright, her tiny gloved hand pointing a dirty finger at me, “You gave me CRAP plants!  It’s YOUR fault I don’t have a jack-o-lantern!”.  Her eyes shooting yellow venom as she spits the words at me.  In shock, I calmly tell her that I’ll share my own crop with her. “I want my OWN jack-o-lantern!”.  In a complete rage, she stomps back to her garden, screaming and kicking her own plants. “See? See?  All CRAP!!” She yells ignoring a good sized jack-o-lantern of her own that’s still growing.  At this point my kids stand frightened behind me. Their joy completely dissipated.  “Psycho Kitty”, I say out of the corner of my mouth, just loud enough for them to hear.  After she calms down, I walk over to her side of the garden as she shoots one last poisoned look in my direction. “Next year,” , I say like Queen Latifa. My finger making cobra circles in the air, “grow your own @#!*$! plants”. 

Dear Readers, you will be happy to know that she finally did grow a decent sized jack-o-lantern this year…almost as big as mine ;-).

Poor dear, she must be losing her mind to get her panties in such a bunch over a pumpkin.  To honor my dear friend, today’s recipe will be her signature dish, the National Dish of Thailand:  Pad Thai. 

Pad Thai

1 large wok

1/3 cup vegetable oil

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Cup of firm tofu, cut in  ½ inch cubes

½ pound peeled raw medium shrimp (optional)

4 eggs

1 package of thick Cantaboon rice noodles (soaked in water for 3 hours)

½ Cup tamarind sauce (recipe below)

¼ cup of chives or Chinese (garlic) chives.

1 Cup of bean sprouts. 

A dash of fish sauce (optional)

Garnish:   bean sprouts, peanuts  (chopped fine),  lime wedges, Chinese chives, sugar, ground red pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce

Directions

In a large wok over high heat, heat oil.  Add garlic and stir-fry 30 seconds.  Add tofu and shrimp and stir-fry another minute.  Break eggs and wait until set, about 1 minute.  Fold to break up.  Take noodles out of the water (using your hands works perfectly for this) and put them in the wok.  Stir fry until ingredients are mixed.  Add tamarind sauce and mix.  Add chives or garlic chives and bean sprouts and mix again.  Taste.  It should have a nice balance of sweet and salty.  It should not be too dry. 

To Serve:  The idea is that the noodles provides a base that guests can customize to their own tastes.  Serve with garnishes and let the guests help themselves.

Tamarind sauce:    In a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water, ¼ cup tamarind sauce,  ½ cup brown sugar, and a teaspoon of salt.  Simmer over med heat, stirring frequently until a thin paste. About 45 mins.  Taste.  It should be a nice balance of sour, salt and sweet.  Adjust if needed.

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