This morning I baked my first batch of pumpkin-something of the season. Usually it's pumpkin bread but today I was starving so I made it quicker-baking-muffins instead. There's nothing particularly revolutionary about my muffins: good doses of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg; chopped walnuts; whole wheat pastry flour. If I didn't have a dried fruit hater in the family, I would probably add dried cranberries. Or bits of crystallized ginger (but that is for when the short people either get a little more adventurous in their palates, or move out). Sometimes to get the older one to eat pumpkin anything, I add in chocolate chips. Not my idea of a good muffin.
There is crunchy, partially melted snow on the ground, gray sky above (which I have discovered is really conducive to me feeling creative--nothing like blue sky to bring my brain to a halt), a stack of grading to be done, a final exam and final exam study guide to write, Christmas presents to knit, and a Thanksgiving dinner to plan out. Despite all of the above, or maybe because of it, I took refuge in homey pumpkin muffins this morning and found myself remembering all the pumpkin bread I baked while we were in Inner Mongolia. Although actually, it wasn't pumpkin but sweet potatoes, roasted on the open streets in front of our apartment. I had these giant sweet potatoes, a cross between our yams and sweet potatoes here, fresh walnuts, farm eggs. After a day of ice skating there was nothing better to come home to than a thick slice of this bread, a cup of hot cocoa or tea.
I don't particularly miss a lot of things about our 7 months in China, although looking back through my old blog I do feel nostalgia for my 6 and 8 year old kids, for the good food, the forced coziness of our little apartment, the concentrated family time--a raft to cling to when all else felt so bewilderingly foreign.
I guess this is what pumpkin bread means to me now (or the latest incarnation, pumpkin muffins): nostalgia in a little wrapper, warmth and spice and love and family.