After months of temptation, Eileen Cumming finally succumbed to the aromas wafting from the basement kitchen where Slow Food’s University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter hosts its weekly Wednesday lunch café
“I meditate on Tuesday nights upstairs. I’ve been smelling the food for a year,” said Cumming, pushing a wisp of salt-and-pepper hair from her face as she spoke. But the scent of roasting turkey being prepared in advance, and a sign advertising an early Thanksgiving repast, finally overcame obstacles of cold weather, heavy traffic and limited daytime parking.
A week before the holiday, Cumming was at a long table with her friend Frank Clover, a professor emeritus of history and classics, leaning over the ruins of a small feast: a trace of garlic mashed potatoes, a shred of stuffing, with half a turkey sandwich set aside for her supper.
“We had all the sides, except we were too late for dessert,” Cumming said.
That was spiced pumpkin pudding with a dollop of sweetened sour cream, the finale in a menu heavy on sustainable and healthful fare. Orange was the color of the day, from the pudding to sweet potato brioche stuffed with turkey or farmers cheese and cranberry relish to the roasted butternut squash tossed with farro and pumpkin seeds. (Bring on those nutritious, cancer-fighting carotinoids.)
Health consciousness — of consumers and of the environment — is a hallmark of Slow Food. The self-described “eco-gastronomic” nonprofit organization and movement began in Italy in 1989 to counter fast food and to sustain local and regional food traditions.
Slow Food USA has about 40 campus chapters. UW-Madison’s chapter, with about 90 members, runs the weekly café, Monday-night family meals and other events, most featuring locally grown or produced foods. The goal is to bring affordable local food to campus, where anyone is welcome. At $4.50, the turkey sandwich was that day’s most expensive offering. The luncheon café drew 210 paying customers, including Cumming.
Student intern Paige Kelly, who oversees bread-making operations for the café, began joining in the café’s Tuesday-afternoon prep sessions almost a year ago. Slow Food, she said, “has changed my identity. It has forced me to think about every meal and every ingredient,” leading her to meet “amazing farmers and producers.”
Kelly also said she has “learned that the value of food extends beyond consuming a meal.”
Good food, communally shared, provides a spiritual experience of its own.
And, for Cumming and others who missed dessert, Slow Food UW shared its pumpkin pudding recipe.
What better to do with a plethora of pumpkins than make a pudding?
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Sour Cream Topping
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add milk, brown sugar and cornstarch. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, crack eggs and whisk to blend. Slowly add a few tablespoons of milk mixture, stirring constantly, to temper the eggs and avoid scrambling them. Then, slowly pour egg mixture into saucepan, also stirring constantly. Bring the mixture back to a low boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick.
Stir in pumpkin, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl or 6 ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.
Just before serving, top with sour cream topping.
*This recipe has not been tested by AFR.
This tangy topping was created for pumpkin pudding, but could be delicious on pie, berries and any number of sweet items.
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in small bowl, whisking until smooth.