Australians do not have Thanksgiving, and that was my chief non-serious complaint about Australia. (Serious complaints included things like widespread, unapologetic racism, outdoor cats and mandatory helmet laws, but none of those are very good introductory topics for a butternut squash recipe.) It was hard to wrap my tiny Yankee head around Christmas in the middle of summer, but forgetting Thanksgiving altogether was just not something I was willing to do. So I made a Thanksgiving dinner for the family I was living with at the time, and I pulled out all the stops — turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, etc. Except, you guys, they already knew about all of those kinds of foods, and they were very unimpressed until I brought out the pumpkin pie.
Apparently pumpkins should always be savory, and Australians have Very! Strong! Opinions! on the matter, particularly when they are biting into pumpkin pie for the very first time in their lives and are expecting it to taste like a custard tart with, I don’t know, orange stuff in it. I wound up eating most of that pie all by myself over the course of about a week, until it got shriveled and moldy in the fridge and I was forced to throw it out. I did not attempt to feed pumpkin pie to Australians ever again.
I did wonder, though, if a compromise could be reached. Could squash perhaps be cooked with pumpkin pie seasonings on it, but without sugar? Could we find common ground through cinnamon? I never actually did it, because this was before I discovered vegetables for the sake of vegetables and not as a vehicle for sugar.
The first time I tried this, I cut a butternut squash in half the long way, sprinkled it with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, and roasted it in the oven for awhile. Then I tried to eat it with a spoon because I’m classy like that. Haha, bad idea! The spices need to be better distributed among the pumpkin flesh, there needs to be a fat to spread it all around and the pumpkin should ideally be cut into chunks, so here’s how you do it decently. We’re going to use our best friend LARD, appropriate in every possible cooking situation since it’s practically tasteless and doesn’t break down like olive oil.
Get the kind that needs to be refrigerated, because it doesn’t have all those preservatives in it — the kind you get at the grocery store is actually pretty nasty and is full of trans fats. You can also render your own, which is pretty easy and results in cracklins, which are arguably the tastiest snack known to man. I’ve been using tallow since beef kidney fat is a lot cheaper than pork back fat, but today I stopped by the Prather Ranch store in the Ferry Building in San Francisco for some pork leaf lard. Also I bought a T-shirt:
(I changed into it after lunch and Dietitian Coworker facepalmed so hard I heard the smack.)
Pumpkin Spiced Squash
- 1 cup raw butternut squash, diced into ½ inch cubes
- 1 Tbsp lard, melted
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp allspice
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a baking dish with some aluminium foil. Or don’t, if you’re into scraping food out of your bakeware, I don’t care. Combine squash and spices in a bowl and toss to coat.
Scrape into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until you can easily stick a fork into a chunk of squash.