by Sidney D.
A retelling of a family legend
|This is a retelling of a story originally by NickiD89
There is a manilla folder in my house that is stuffed with recipes. It has a hand turkey drawn on the front and ‘taxes’ written on the tab. Among the recipes it shelters, is an orange piece of paper smaller than printer paper and stained with years of use. The recipe is a simple one, penned by my mother’s hand, but with origins beyond her.
My mom is a gifted storyteller. My favorite of her stories are tidbits of her past, especially her early youth where her cousin, Dayna, is a title character. There is one about going to get pizza and accidentally ripping the door off Uncle Dan's pick up, another where my mom and her cousin stayed out past curfew one too many times and got their car keys, not taken away, but cut in half with wire cutters, the grounding concluding when another set of keys could be paid for. Yet more from when they worked at a tree nursery for an old hippy and got stuck on a hill in town because they could not drive stick. They knew every word of St. Elmo’s Fire. Dayna has changed a lot over the years; Facebook ruined her in middle age.
The Legend starts with her.
The Skeldon family is historically Roman Catholic. There is little that Roman Catholics do better than drink wine, make pasta, and have babies. So just after her birth, around Thanksgiving, Dayna was baptized. After the baptism, my mother’s Aunt Char and Uncle Dan had the family to their house for dinner. It was one of those big dinners where the kids play all night in their church clothes and there is too much food and even more wine.
I was not there; in fact my mother was barely a year old, but I picture that it was warm and loud in the house, just like I remember Christmas parties at my Aunt Mellie's house being. If you are at all aware of seasons in Upstate New York you will understand why the locals say there are four seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction Season -- the latter being the shortest season of all. From the time each family member left their own homes to the time dinner had finished, it had been steadily snowing. It was clear that no one would be driving home, so they divided the bedrooms and couches and air mattresses and sleeping bags and went to sleep.
The next morning, the mistress of the house woke early and came to the realization that she had a house full of people and no breakfast to serve. Aunt Char searched her cupboards and found that the only recipe she had enough ingredients for was an old but trustworthy recipe for pumpkin bread. So she got to work. The smell of hot coffee and warm pumpkin bread roused the house of sleepy relatives. This was the start of the recipe's immortality.
I have never in my twenty years of life known a Thanksgiving or Christmas without the appearance of the small orange notepad paper. Every time that recipe comes out, I ask my mom to tell me its story and she happily obliges.
Pumpkin Bread (Old Rome, N.Y. recipe)
1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
Throw it all together in a big bowl and mix it up. Bake in a loaf pan in 350°F oven for 1 hour.