In the fall of 2011, my dear husband and I had started to settle in to our new home, our new marriage, our new need to cook for ourselves, and even our new graduate school routine. It very quickly became clear that going to either of our families’ homes for Thanksgiving was not going to happen. We were thrilled when one of our dearest friends in this college town, who helpfully lived in a house with a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room (!), invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a collection of all of those friends who didn’t go home for the weekend: my friends, my dear husband’s friends from near and far, even my host’s family from nearby. We made an absolute feast: at least one casserole dish per person with plenty to spare. We met together, sang a blessing, ate delicious food, learned more about each other, took a walk in the evening light. It was truly magical and a beautiful picture of community.
During the planning phases, I realized that for this Thanksgiving (my first away from blood-family) to truly feel like Thanksgiving, I would have to bring my own Thanksgiving favorites. For my family, Thanksgiving doesn’t count without mac and cheese and/or pumpkin bread (each side of my family has a particular favorite). Once I was assured someone else would bring the mac and cheese (albeit not as good as Grama’s…), I knew it would be my job to make pumpkin bread.
My first efforts with pumpkin bread were fraught with complications. Let’s just say my dear husband ended up at the grocery store searching for a can of pumpkin less than 12 hours before Thanksgiving dinner. An adventure I know he hopes not to relive. But eventually I was able to come up with two loaves of pumpkin bread, cut into slices, with bits of butter tucked in between the slices, wrapped in foil, and ready to go. I explained to my new Waco family that pumpkin bread was not only supposed to be a side dish, not a dessert, and that my family fought tooth and nail over the pieces — I wanted to be sure they knew what a delicacy they were enjoying. It ended up being a rousing success and a great way for me to feel at home in a brand new place.
I have since made pumpkin bread 2-3 more times. The most recent time was for a new graduate school friend’s celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. (That’s right: we get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice this year… score!). Many of her reasons for throwing this feast were similar to my own for bringing pumpkin bread: in order to make home of a new place, the little things often become the most important. The feast was epic, delicious, and concluded with a game of Canadian trivia. All in all, it was a wonderful time.
Without further ado: pumpkin bread.
After my failed first attempt, I talked it over with my Mimi and discovered my problem: I over filled my bread pans. The batter actually makes two loaves and three muffins exactly. Without the three muffins, the loaf pans get overfilled and the bread sticks to the pan, and it does not end well. But this batch, thankfully, worked beautifully:
(That’s the part where you stick butter in between the slices and it gets all melty and delicious).
5 years ago, I would have told you that I had a ginormous family, whom I loved very dearly, and I didn’t think I had room for much more. I had my handful of close friends in college, my big family, and I was good. Then I got married and realized I did indeed have room for more family. But really, after all those in-laws, I couldn’t possibly claim anyone else as family. Then I moved here, to this college town, and I was proven wrong once again. These people from all over became my family: they shared holidays with me, taught me new traditions, learned my own traditions, helped me decorate my Christmas tree, made the complicated foods I couldn’t figure out, and watched the Macy’s parade with me.
I, according to Myers-Briggs, am an ISTJ. One of the reasons I identify strongly with this category is the importance of stability and traditions in my life. I hate change, which is an unfortunate place to be as a student at age 25, and I cling to traditions as a stabilizing force in my life. Little things like pumpkin bread help me to create home in a new and strange place. And the dear people in my new home accepted me and my traditions with open arms. This is how communities are formed and home is created. With a bit of flour, a lot of sugar, some nutmeg, some pumpkin, and a lot of butter.