The Marquez Family Recipe Vault, opened.

November 18, 2007 · 2 comments

I’ve been told by my parents that, while I am not the immediate descendant of a foodie, I had other relatives who were wonderful cooks. My dad’s side of the family came to New Orleans from Spain (hence, the maiden name that caused me to receive more than my share of Spanish-speaking telemarketers and junk mail), and ended up in south Mississippi. My memories from visits to my paternal grandparents are focused on food — from the boiled shrimp that was my grandfather’s specialty, to picking blueberries and shelling pecans until my fingers hurt, to watching in utter amazement as my grandmother sliced an apple in the palm of her hand (how did she not cut herself?). I can still taste the ambrosia and ham at the holidays, the raisin bread with apple butter at my Aunt Inez’s house, and Gonnie’s (my grandmother) “kid coffee”: a demitasse cup with about an ounce of coffee and four times as much milk, with who knows how much sugar. I blame my early exposure to this kinderversion of café au lait for the fact that I cannot drink black coffee.

Unfortunately, there is no worn, leather box that holds little splattered, faded, handwritten recipes that were passed on to me to carry on this creole-meets-southern eating tradition. My grandparents both died before I embarked on my culinary adventures, so I was never able to call them and ask, “so, what was in that ambrosia, anyway?” And, outside of the afore-mentioned, I have few other good food memories from childhood. Every once in a while, my mom would cook a pot roast, or a pot of summer squash and onions. And twice a year — at Thanksgiving and Christmas — she made Pumpkin Bread. We would order our entire holiday dinner, pre-cooked, from our local grocery store. But, dammit, we made homemade Pumpkin Bread. And we loved it. Ate it sliced, topped with Cool Whip (I confess to continuing this tradition when in Mississippi for the holidays). We knew it was that time of year when Mom was digging in that scary corner cabinet — the one with outdated prescription drugs — looking for the splattered, faded index card that listed the Pumpkin Bread recipe. The single recipe that I have inherited. And now, friends, I share it with you. I still make it, multiple times, around the holidays; it’s good bread for sharing, and freezes very well. I am often asked for the recipe, and I proudly pass it on, with the addendum that it’s “my Mom’s” — and chuckle to myself at the identity that this suggests. Don’t worry. My Mom would chuckle, too.

Pumpkin Bread (courtesy Rachel Barham Marquez)

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350º, and grease (crisco) and flour 2 loaf pans.

Sift together the dry ingredients (flour through cloves) in a medium bowl. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a standing mixer) combine the sugar and oil. Add the eggs to the sugar/oil mixture, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add the pumpkin and stir until smooth. Add appx. 1/3 of the flour mixture and a little of the water, stirring until smooth. Keep adding the flour and water, stirring after the additions, until all ingredients have been added.

Pour into loaf pans. Bake approximately 1 1/2 hours, or until the top is nicely cracked and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pans on a cooling rack for at least a half hour, and let cool completely before wrapping to freeze.

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