pumpkin: 3 posts

Power to the Pumpkin in Art and Perfume

In my recent article in FT magazine, Power to the Pumpkin, I explore the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s way with pumpkins–as well as that of perfumers. Both are fun and surprising.

“My love of pumpkins stretches back to when I was a little child. I have always found them to be such tender things to touch and so wonderfully humorous, humble and appealing,” says artist Yayoi Kusama about the most recognizable motif of her work. Her pumpkins are cast in bronze, covered in polka dots or lit by a warm glow. The effect is both whimsical and eerie, echoing associations with childhood pastimes and autumnal stillness. Continue reading →

Pumpkin Rice Pudding with a Millet Variation

The fall market in Ukraine is all about pumpkins–the delicate yellow squashes that resemble melons, orange rounds large enough to become Cinderella’s coach, elongated butternuts, green pebbly varieties with white flesh, and so much more. In the customary fashion of a Ukrainian market, the sellers offer small pieces of pumpkin to prove that theirs is the sweetest, the ripest and the most fragrant.

Sampling pumpkins at the market in Poltava, I realized that many varieties taste of violets. This floral-fruity note makes pumpkin an interesting ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. I like to roast pumpkin cubes tossed with garlic, chili and cumin as well as coated in honey and sprinkled with walnuts. I make minestrone with beans and bacon–or use pumpkin in delicate pureed soups with pears and cardamom. Its flavor is subtle, but it’s surprisingly assertive.

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Autumnal Scents and Tastes

 persimmons

The enjoyment of delicious food and beautiful scents are among life’s most wonderful pleasures, and in fact, these pleasures are tightly linked. Imagine holding a ripe yellow pear in your hand. Bring it to your nose and inhale the scent of its skin. The rush of fruity notes with their lemon and banana nuances will hit you almost immediately. Now take a bite. As you swallow, the caramel and milky notes become more evident. Finally, you might even notice some lingering almond nougat sweetness. Voilà, a fragrance pyramid on the tip of your tongue! To celebrate such simple pleasures, I would like to share some highlights of autumnal scents and flavors, seasonal delights that make me forget shortened days, colder nights and rainy mornings. Whether these pleasures include a luscious chestnut montblanc, quince stewed till it turns ambery-red, decadent persimmon jelly, julienned turnips tossed with pomegranate seeds or a slice of pumpkin flan, they are as much about fragrance as about flavor. I hope that this list along with suggested flavor affinities (some of which I found during my perfumery raw material training) will provide some inspiration to explore new pairings.

Quinces

I find quince to be the most marvelously perfumed fruit, rivaling fresh strawberries and peaches. Its fragrance is a combination of violet, rose, caramel, apricot, and licorice with a hint of vanilla, sandalwood and jasmine. While it cannot be eaten raw, cooked quince, which turns from ivory to ruby red, offers plenty of culinary possibilities. Toss peeled halves in lemon juice, cover with a scented sugar syrup (1 cup sugar, 2 cups water, 2 cloves, vanilla, which is enough for 4 quinces) and either simmer it gently or bake it at 300F till the fruit softens. Let it cool in its juices and store in the fridge. Prepared this way, quince can be eaten Turkish style garnished with clotted cream and chopped walnuts. It is also delicious used in pies, crumbles, and sorbets; served along with cheese, yogurt or ice cream, roast duck or lamb.

Flavor affinities: sweet spices (cinnamon, clove, vanilla, nutmeg, star anise), cardamom, bay leaf, dried figs, apples, sheep milk cheese, rosewater, brown sugar, caramel, brandy, pistachios, walnuts.

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