Harvest Pumpkin Trifle (click on the link for the recipe) isn’t the right name for this scrumptious autumn-inspired dessert. Perhaps ‘fall in a glass’ suits it better. As leaves pile up on lawns, so do the sweet ingredients pile up within this wine glass. At the bottom are sherry-soaked pieces of pound cake. Tart, sweet and flavorful cranberry topping spreads on top of them. Next, a mixture of pumpkin, vanilla pudding, cinnamon and ginger fills the glass. This is topped with toasted walnuts. And lastly, a dollop of whipped cream dots the top remeniscent of an early snow unevenly concealing the ground beneath.
I served this fall dessert last night to good friends. While waiting for our Northwoods chicken to bake, we enjoyed Octoberfest beer in front of the family-room fire. Naturally, our October-in-Wisconsin conversation first focused on home insulation, especially the cauking and sealing around windows and doors, then moved on to a comparision of heating costs of a standard furnace versus those of spot heating the house with fires in a wood stove or gas fireplace.
Then it happened. Kay stood up, looked pensively around the room, she announced, “I’m feeling creative.”
Much like nervous Piglet looks to Christopher Robin for reassurance when Pooh has just announced the sighting of a heffalump, my eyes darted to Dan, Kay’s husband. And like Christopher Robin, Dan showed the calm, steady willingness to embark upon whatever adventure Kay would suggest.
“This room feels drab to me.” Kay spoke as if channeling a deceased interior decorator. “The colors…”
“I like these colors.” I defended.
“Hmmm…” Kay was respectful, but undeterred. “The room needs livening.”
As a conceeding gesture, I disclosed my dream of replacing the end-quarter of the family room wall with floor-to-ceiling windows. This would give my light-hungry house plants southern and western sun exposure.
“Aahh, Yes!” Kay leapt upon the idea, her zeal emboldened “You must!” Dan explained how Kay routinely advises friends to tear down walls in their homes.
And now, I had just opened that door, I thought. Where would we go with this? Kay strode into the kitchen. She was inhaling deeply, but I don’t think the intoxicating vapors belonged to my chicken. “These cabinets over the counter block the flow! You could move them over there,” she pointed, “-on to the outside wall.”
I agreed by saying that cabinets along an outside wall would be a useful insulator. My thoughts, like a sluggard Eyeore, were obviously still stuck on winter-home heating. “Yes,” Kay continued, “then the eye would have an attractive path along the wall and into the eating area…All four cabinets wouldn’t fit, so you could do two rows of two.” Dan offered that he didn’t think two rows of cabinets on the wall would look very good.
“Do you need all these cabinets?” Kay questioned.
“Uh, not really,” I hemmed. “I could put the trivets, appetizer dishes, and mixing bowls in the basement.”
“All right. Then lets see how many of these cabinets we can fit in a row along this wall.” Dan started to measure the cabinet width with his vest, but I offered him a tape measure. They determined that exactly three of the four would fit…unless I wanted a little decorative shelf between them, then only two would fit. “Now, that will really open up this kitchen!” Kay declared. You’ll be able to stand here and see the fireplace.”
Getting into the spirit of let’s pretend, I said that I’d always wanted a wood stove in the kitchen. It would give this main room in the house where everyone always congregates a warm, comfortably relaxing atmosphere. Dan and Kay agreed, and our conversation reverted to wood stoves, with Dan describing the technical logistics of venting a wood stove out of my kitchen. “It would be nice to see the fire from the dining room,” I mused.
“Of course!” Kay exclaimed and extended her arms as wide as possible. “Remove these cabinets and this wall between the kitchen and dining room and install a fireplace here!” Dan and Kay discussed whether the fire should be gas or wood-buring while I pondered where to put the displaced canned goods.