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Cooking with Myra: The important things in life

Oct. 18, 2011 at 5:18 a.m.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup canola oil

1 cup water

1 (15-oz.) can pure pumpkin

4 eggs

3 cups sugar

31/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

11/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 cup roasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two large loaf pans. Dump all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Distribute the batter evenly between the two loaf pans. Scatter the pepita seeds over the top of these and press lightly so they stick in the batter. Bake for 80 minutes or until a wooden toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 minutes and then remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely. Wrap in plastic or heavy foil. This will freeze for three months.

By Myra Starkey

I stepped outside one morning last week and felt the crisp air of autumn. At my feet were one or two browning leaves from the oak tree, which had just fallen, and I realized another season has passed. We have gone from really hot 24/7 to just hot afternoons, and it is even predicted that we may soon progress to somewhat cool. Cooler weather reminds me of football games, hot cocoa and pumpkins.

Our Aggie friends, Mary Ann and Robert, invited us to join them for an Aggie football event. When the Aggies play, it is not merely a game, it is more of a spectacle or something akin to an exciting and loud religious event of grand proportions. The Aggies would be playing the Baylor Bears, my alma mater, and I had just the slightest but unrealistic hope that the Bears could win. I welcomed the opportunity to sit and cheer for our team at Kyle Field under a bright, blue October sky. Things did not turn out well for the visiting team.

The stadium is impressive with the triple tiers of sound-reflecting concrete and every seat filled by an enthusiastic fan. They sing songs about winning against Texas and cutting off longhorns, and they sway and they roar and I sang along, especially when I figured out the Bears were not going to win the game anyway. Deep down, my allegiance is to Baylor, but with a good Aggie friend on my left and another on my right, I was singing right along with them. If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em.

My other goal in going to College Station was to see Spencer, our youngest son, who is a junior at Baylor. He planned to make the pilgrimage to the game and watch it outside the stadium on TV while tailgating, since the tickets were so pricey. As a mom, I immediately began to text him when we arrived in College Station on Friday night, hoping he might want to meet us somewhere. Of course, no call arrived that night or the next morning, and I put on my worried face.

After the game, when the roaring of fans had stopped and I could hear myself talk, I dialed his phone and he answered. "Mom, where have you been? I really need to tell you something." This statement is usually the precursor to something bad, and indeed he followed with, "I had a bad wreck last night."

My heart began to pound, and I walked quickly away from the crowds straining to hear. He continued with his story. On Friday, he had left Waco late with friends, and when he arrived at midnight in College Station, he dropped them off at a house where most of his friends were staying. I interjected several questions, the first being "Are you OK? Where are you? Were you drinking? Was anyone hurt? What time did this happen? We are on our way." but by the time I finished the barrage of questions, the phone went dead.

Why is it that when you most need to hear something, the phone loses its connection? Is someone from the cell network listening in so they can kill the line just at a critical moment when they know you are close to hysteria? Finally, after a frantic 10 minutes, I was able to contact him again, and he gave me an address, so we could pick him up. Taylor sat patiently beside me, but the emotional coaster began.

Spencer had fallen asleep at the wheel about 2 a.m. after dropping a friend off at a party. He had crashed into a guardrail, and someone called the police. His airbags had gone off, and his hand had broken the front window, but he had no major injuries.

We drove to the tow truck business and were let into the lot, so we could remove his belongings from the totally wrecked SUV. The front wheel was twisted underneath the front of the car, and the hood was folded like foil. The engine compartment had shifted to one side with the impact. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks, and I wiped them off.

Spencer could have easily died in this accident, yet he escaped with not even a scratch. I thanked God and started my "nothing good happens after midnight" (which I fervently believe) talk. We spent an hour with him until he found a ride back to Waco with a friend. He was quiet and sullen, and I hoped he had learned a valuable lesson. Time will tell.

Taylor and I left early the following morning to visit with our other two children, who live in Houston. We planned to go to church with them and then go to lunch somewhere nice.

On the way, we called Hannah, our daughter, who told us that her husband, Ben, had been feeling very ill, and she was going to drive him home to Temple where his father is a physician. We did not get to see the two of them, but thankfully, all his preliminary tests were OK.

Once we arrived in Houston, we met up with our oldest son, Miles. He listened intently as I recounted the last 24 hours of phone calls and incidents, and he shook his head and commented on how scary life can be. I thought to myself, "Wait until you have kids."

I think we often get bothered by some really silly things in life, such as whether our football team wins or loses. It did seem sort of important at the time as I was sitting in that football stadium because I was oblivious to the bigger issues. And maybe if everything else is going great in life, then a football score would be a big deal. Or perhaps we just seek distractions in sports or shopping or whatever, so we can forget about the other parts of our lives that trouble us. It all seems to pale in comparison when disaster strikes those I love, particularly my kids.

With the arrival of fall, my thoughts turn to some of my favorite recipes. October and Halloween make us think of pumpkins. Kids may see this gourd as something to simply carve into a ghoulish grin, but I see it as a great thing to cook.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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