The Great Pumpkin

In October 1992, we bought a pumpkin.

Now, I don’t remember every gourd-like squash I’ve ever purchased, but this one was special. It wasn’t the first pumpkin I’d ever bought, and it wasn’t the biggest. In fact there was nothing remarkable about it at all, except this: it was the first pumpkin that I ever bought as food.

In the past, I had only procured pumpkins with the intention of carving faces into them. When I shopped for them, I looked for ones that were vaguely evil looking … sinister pumpkins, that looked like they would just as soon shoot me as look at me … soulless pumpkins that exuded quiet rage.

That all changed one afternoon in 1992, when we happened upon a pile of pumpkins at our local vegetable shop. In that moment, it struck me that pumpkins were food too … and remarkably inexpensive food at that (important, as we were saving for our honeymoon). And, as I looked at one pumpkin in particular – a tantalizingly plump and inviting one – I realized that it could feed us for a week.

We bought it, and embarked on what was to become a fun, week-long project: finding as many ways to eat our pumpkin as we could think of (this was in the olden days, and Mosaic was still a year in the future, so we had to rely on our own wits and knowledge). I still remember many of the things we ate that week: roasted pumpkin, pumpkin mash, roasted pumpkin seeds, spicy pumpkin stir fry, pumpkin soup (with a hint of maple and a dash of nutmeg), pumpkin pie and pumpkin quick bread. It fed us for a week, as predicted, and only the peel and stem ended up in the bin – something that felt like an accomplishment, somehow.

This year, there was no jack-o-lantern, but we did buy a little pumpkin, which Bonnie Lee turned into one of the most incredibly moist quick breads I’ve ever had, thanks in part to the addition of okara (soy pulp, a byproduct of making soy milk – more on that magic ingredient another day). The recipe is below…

Insanely moist pumpkin bread

The wet stuff & spices

  • 1½ cups pumpkin flesh (roasted then mashed)
  • 1 cup okara
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • ½ cup soy milk (unflavoured, unsweetened)
  • ½ cup birch syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp ground cloves

The dry stuff

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder


  • Preheat your oven to 350℉.
  • Grease two loaf pans (we use glass ones).
  • Mix the wet stuff and spices in a big bowl.
  • Mix the dry stuff in another big bowl.
  • Mix the dry stuff into the wet stuff.
  • Fill the loaf pans ⅔ full.
  • Bake for one hour, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack.

15 thoughts on “The Great Pumpkin

    • We used the jack-o-lantern variety for the meals in 1992, and it’s flavour was less full and satisfying than that of sugar pumpkins or kabocha – but that just meant we had to be a bit more creative. :)

  1. Nice how often food makes for great memories… We’re always looking for recipes to use okara and this looks delicious will definitely give it try, we just froze a bunch of fresh roasted sugar pumpkin purée the other day.

    • Couldn’t agree more – there’s something about coming together to make something special that is hard to match, whether it’s over a camp fire or in a well appointed kitchen … with a big group of friends or family.

  2. Yeah! Another okara recipe! “Insanely moist” is what makes me drool over any gourd bread. I’ve been known to shred zucchini or pumpkin into many a muffin recipe for the same reason. We have 6 beautiful pumpkins awaiting a weekend carving session. I’ll be sure to save some flesh for your bread in addition to roasting the seeds — perhaps adding to an already long-lived fall tradition in our household!

    PS — my single volunteer pumpkin bit the dust last week. Vine borers. :(

    PSS — cushaw is doing great. I have four fruit set (two got mysteriously eaten by someone).

    • We don’t squeeze the okara dry or roast it, so it’s basically the texture of mashed potatoes – and it made a real difference in the bread. It had a lot of body and was as far away from dry as a bread can be. Looking forward to hearing how yours turns out.

      PS Was sorry to hear of the demise & disappearance of your pumpkins.

  3. I miss eating okara! What a clever way to use it, sounds awesome. I’m also going to hit the produce stand before they close for the winter and grab more pumpkins and squash. They are so cheap, and will keep for a long time. :)

    • We’re just discovering okara since we bought our soy milk maker this summer. We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with it, with varying levels of success.

      And yes, now is the time to stock up on all the bounty from the harvest. I just picked up a few butternut squashes myself, one of which is earmarked for dinner.

  4. WONDERFUL recipe! We still haven’t “carved” our pumpkin. I was going to try to make an acutal pie this year out of it, but this pumpkin bread looks way too good to pass over. (I still search for the lopsided, sinister looking ones though.) Out of habit, I guess….!

    • We actually used a perfectly spherical, amicable-looking sugar pie pumpkin to make this, though in general, I think sinister, asymmetrical veg is the way to go. Homely vegetables tend to scare off most shoppers, and end up rotting away through no fault of their own.

  5. Pingback: Honourable husks (a.k.a. Okara) | 222 million tons

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