My apartment has been in flux furniture-wise for the past couple weeks. You know, the roommate transition deal where your old roommate moves out and you don’t realize how much furniture was hers until it’s gone? Yes, the piles of cleaning supplies in my hallway and the bare tile floors of our living area know that’s exactly the deal. It’s been good to realize that sitting on a stack of pillows works just as well as having kitchen chairs, but a little bit sad when you realize two minutes later that you can feel nothing of your behind but a tingling numbness.
I don’t know how people without a car, wads of cash, and guns of steel furnish apartments in New York. I mean, my new roommate and I have got the guns of steel thing going on pretty well, but at first we delayed furnishing the place because we just couldn’t figure out how we might get that stellar bargain Craigslist couch from point A to point B without doubling the price. So, we continued to stack the pillows come dinner time.
And then, furniture started coming to us. Lo and behold, one day on the way home from work I spotted a nice-looking couch sitting on the curb just 200 feet from my apartment! It was just the right size for our little nook, and I told myself I’d spend three hours dragging that thing down the block by myself if need be (yes, we are desperate). But first I rang the doorbell of the apartment nearest the couch, and thank goodness — it belonged to a three-generation family of gregarious Greeks. The son answered the door first and basically shouted in accented English, “Yes take it, take it. We don’t need it no more.” That’s exactly what I hoped he would say. Then the mother popped her head out and said, “Take it quick before the rain! Take it!”
“Well the thing is,” I told the son,”My roommate won’t be home for a few hours and…[I don’t really have guns of steel].” He summoned his father before I could finish my sentence. They threw the couch on a dolly cart, wheeled it over to my place, and finagled a stranger walking by into helping us maneuver it in the front door and down our deathly spiral staircase. The son pushed the couch against the wall and said, “Viola! Now you have a couch! You need anything else?”
I thought at this rate he’d probably lug his entire house full of furnishings over for me if I asked, but I didn’t want to, uh, push my luck, so I thanked him profusely and said I would stop by his place later and repay his family’s generosity with a home-cooked meal. The son’s response: “Actually you almost woke my daughter up when you rang the bell just now, so maybe you shouldn’t.”
Well, in that case, “Thanks again?” I said. Darn Greeks and their Greekness.
So we have a couch now, and the next day a fine looking wooden chair showed up on the curb a little farther down the block. I’m confident a few more chairs and a kitchen table will come to us if we are patient enough. I guess having patience is the key to furnishing an apartment in NYC. (Unless you’re Greek and you have no patience.) But in the mean time, my behind and I have been entirely enjoying eating delicious foods, including pumpkin cornbread, in the company of a real live God-sent (Greek God-sent?) couch.
The pumpkin in this recipe adds a nice wholesomeness to your standard cornbread, though its flavor isn’t immediately noticeable. If you want a more pronounced pumpkin-ness, add a dash of your favorite pumpkin pie spices and a touch more honey. Top a warm slice with honey, butter, or — even better — pumpkin butter.
Adapted from New York Times
Makes ~12 servings
1 cup canned or homemade pumpkin purée
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 1/2 cups stone ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Heat oven to 400 degrees, and place inside a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 2-quart baking dish.Whisk together the pumpkin purée, milk, olive oil, honey and eggs. Place the cornmeal in a large bowl; sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together. Do not overwork. Remove the baking dish or pan from the oven, and add the butter. When it has melted completely, brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush; tip the excess melted butter into the batter, and quickly mix it in. Scrape the batter into the hot pan, and return it to the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before serving.