pumpkin hour

halloween came early this weekend.

a good friend, simon, is dating a brazilian woman and  friday night they came over and she cooked a traditional brazilian dish called (i think) camaron de abobora. it was one of 2 rare occasions that i was not the one slaving in my own kitchen – highly recommended, i’d say!

the dish involves hollowing out and pre-cooking a large pumpkin. a mix of shrimp/prawns, cilantro, garlic  and some other unknown ingredients goes into the hollow and is then baked for a while in the oven. delicious!

Pumpkin1

after the meal most of the pumpkin was still left over and i was determined not to let it go to waste. we were invited to my friend crystal’s (simon’s ex’s) bon voyage party  saturday before she leaves for india , so i used my vitamix (kinda like the rolls royce of blenders and one of the best things i brought with me from l.a.) to blend most of the pumpkin (rind and all) and made a large pot of pumpkin soup which i blended with some of the fresh cilantro/basil/pine nut/garlic and olive pesto i made a few days ago. 

when i was a kid, my mom used to make pumpkin fritters and i could never get enough of them. i’ve never tried making them before, but i reserved a few cups of pumpkin mash and did a google search for a recipe. here’s what i found. 

pumpkin fritter recipe:

ingredients

directions

  1. Combine pumpkin and egg, stir in flour, cinnamon, baking powder, sugar, salt and juice.
  2. Heat oil in a shallow pan and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil, fry till golden then turn and do other side, drain on paper towels and serve hot sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
because i had 3 cups of pumpkin i needed to adjust the recipe, and though it required some tweaking, the fritters were a huge hit at the party, disappearing almost immediately  (even though we needed an ark to get there through a huge thunder-storm!). 
when the storm cleared, fritter-fortified, we repaired to the huge bonfire simon had managed to keep going despite the rain. crystal got some lakshmi powder which we took turns sprinkling in the fire while pronouncing our crys-blessings and then we hooped and spun poi and jumped around in the garden like little kids. 
i know i , for one, needed it. and i think everyone else enjoyed the impromptu spinning lesson.
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there but for the grace…

earlier this week i had the privilege of going out into the streets of downtown johannesburg after work one night, with a group of people from Mes. we drove around in a convoy of vehicles and handed out blankets and soup and bread to countless homeless people camped out on the grimy side-walks under mounds of cardboard and plastic. i could hardly believe the number of men i saw lying shirtless under thin, ragged sleeping bags, their clothing, seemingly all they had, lodged under their heads as pillows. 

a homeless man showing me the holely state of his current blanket

an attractive, freckled young man, david from mozambique told me he’d been on the streets for a year. groups like Mes help to keep them fed and warm.

abraham looked like he was 45. when he started talking about his mom and dad who still live and work on a farm in mpumalanga, i asked how old he was. “32”, he said. he was one of the men lying bare-chested in the cold. he gets up at 5a.m. and walks about looking for work. he said he could do pretty much anything because “on the farm they tell you to do something, and you do it”. he said he’d learnt welding on the farm, but couldn’t get work in the city because he didn’t have a certificate to prove that he could. he’d been in johannesburg for a year. he said he told his parents that he was living in a shelter because they would be too worried, knowing he was living on the street.

the basics - soup and bread

the basics - soup and bread

owen is a good-looking, proud young man. he’d gotten a job, but the employer wants him to bring in his i.d. which unfortunately has been stolen. here we are talking to him, trying to figure out how to help him get a temporary i.d..
most of these people lack even the very basic necessities. toothbrushes, soap, toilet paper. mes has a shelter where they charge R5 a night (it’s a nominal charge, in order to break the culture of hand-outs, but most of these men could not afford even that).
 
if you can or would like to help, please contact Mes.they have a group of phenomenal people working for them who could use as much help as possible.
there but for the grace…