Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Harvest - The Pumpkin

I wanted to carry a neat arrangement of fresh fruit or vegetables placed in a shallow box on a green bed of scrunched tissue paper. It didn’t happen. Instead, with an air of apology, I would hand over some tinned produce my mother had sacrificed from our kitchen minutes earlier.  The gift was received with kindness, always, and stacked up with the others.  This was the pattern of many Harvest Festivals from my childhood, school and Sunday School alike.  I would forget to say anything at home until the last minute, leaving no time to prepare.

Years later, getting Harvest gifts ready with my children, we shredded green crepe paper, stuffed it into shoe boxes and added apples and pears to one box and root vegetables to another. It was lovely to watch them carefully take their gifts forward to be added to the display, which always looked wonderful in church or school hall.

Times change and we found ourselves preparing Harvest gifts to be passed on to the homeless, the Women’s Refuge, Shelter and many other charities.  Fresh produce wasn’t practical.  Toiletries, packaged food with a long shelf-life, socks, gloves, scarves and other small items of clothing would be more welcome.

Harvest isn’t just about thanks-giving, it’s about sharing and caring, and that is much more important than the careful presentation of the gift.

This autumn, I have had the delight of trying out new recipes for pumpkin.  A work colleague has grown far more then he could use and I was happy to help. Pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup are popular dishes, but I found a recipe for pumpkin bread and discovered it to be very more-ish.  The recipe is American which I did my best to convert and it worked out well.  It’s full of chocolate chips and is cake texture rather than bread, well, mine is. I’ll make it again next year.
I found this poem.
     The Pumpkin
Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain. 

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines. 

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? 

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team! 

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie! 

John Greenleaf Whittier   1807 - 1892

Thanks for reading, Pam x



Adele said...

I love that the grapes were 'purpling'. It is a very evocative poem. Lovely sentiments expressed in both blog and poem.

Steve Rowland said...

Agreed with the above, there are some great individual lines in the poem.

Thanks Pam, an interesting blog.