“It says the peel can stay on.”
Merry peered at the recipe, written in Bilbo’s elegant script. Cousin Bilbo had collected recipes all his life, and the cookbook he had written in Rivendell was a particular gem, containing recipes from all over Middle-earth. This one was from Ithilien.
“Yes, but it also says you need to use that special kind of pumpkin, Hookay, if I understand it right. I have never heard of it before, and it is certainly not a kind that grows hereabouts.”
“Pumpkin is pumpkin,” Pippin decided, “you can use whatever you want. Come on, let us get going, I am hungry!”
With visible reluctance, Merry gave in to his cousin’s pestering, and they set about to prepare the pumpkin. It was a large one, easily the size of Pippin’s head, and they needed their combined strength to cut it in half and then in sections. Carving the seeds out was the easy part, but then things started to get difficult.
“Ouch! Darn, Merry, have you an idea how to cut that thing easily? It is so hard!”
Merry looked up from the next step, which was cutting the sections into finger-sized slices.
“No, just keep on working, you whiner. Preparing pumpkin always is hard work, you knew that.”
Pippin sucked his thumb. “Yes, but -”
They gave up after they had done a section each. Perhaps pumpkins grew larger in the Shire than where the recipe originated, or it was one of these tasks where Men, once again, were at an advantage. This simply had to be enough.
“It is sufficient to try the recipe,” Merry decided. “What next?”
“Mix three tablespoons of good olive oil with a tablespoon each of salt, paprika and curry powder,” Pippin read.
Both Hobbits looked at each other with worry.
“We do not have olive oil,” Pippin said.
“Nor any curry, whatever that might be,” Merry finished. Looking at their slices of pumpkin, they said in unison: “Darn!”
“I am sure we can use other oil, as long as it is oil,” Pippin decided, and Merry added with a nod “and we have paprika powder.”
“Hmhm.” Pippin was leafing through the other recipes for inspiration.
“There is another recipe with this curry, and it also lists cinnamon. We have cinnamon!”
Merry looked sceptical. “I do not think we can use that instead.”
Pippin laughed. “Why not? Come on, a little experimentation cannot be wrong. I know what we do! We use twice the amount of paprika powder and also cinnamon. That should do the trick.”
Merry was not convinced, but he also knew from experience that it was difficult to dissuade Pippin of something once he had gotten it in his head. And who knew, perhaps it worked! They did not know what this curry tasted like anyway.
They opened the recipe again and dutifully mixed the spices “let us double the amount, this looks so little!” and then added the pumpkin slices.
“Mix until well coated,” Pippin read, and Merry did so. “Spread on a baking sheet.” Merry complied. “Put into a hot oven for about half an hour.” They did that.
But when they checked at the due time with a fork, the slices were still quite hard. Merry looked at Pippin. “I do not think it is supposed to be like this. The recipe says pumpkin chips are softer than tater chips. But these are not even as soft as them!”
Pippin frowned. “Let us wait a little and check again.”
They waited for the quarter of an hour. The chips began to soften, but the peel was still hard, so they put the sheet back for another quarter.
“Now it surely must be enough!”
Pippin agreed, and Merry placed the hot baking sheet expectantly on the table. Pippin fetched forks, and they both picked up one of the chips expectantly. Or rather, tried to, for the chips were rather mushy.
They looked at each other. “You were right,” Pippin said, “we should have peeled it.”
Merry rolled his eyes and went for spoons. At least it should taste well, no matter the structural integrity. Again, both took their utensils simultaneously, scooped up one of the mushy chips and put it into their mouths.
Pippin snapped for air and went red, Merry ran to the sink and spat it out.
“Smaug's Breath! How much paprika DID you use, Pippin?” But his cousin was unable to speak, trying valiantly to swallow his chip, so Merry consulted the recipe again.
“Tablespoons! You read tablespoons, Pippin, and even doubled the amount. But Bilbo says teaspoons.”
Pippin had swallowed his mouthful, took a hasty swallow of water and came over to look. “Look, he wrote ‘Ts’, that means tablespoon!”
Merry rolled his eyes. “Yes, with a capital T. When the t is small, it means teaspoons.”
“Oh indeed.” Merry could not help the grin spreading over his face. Pippin surely would never learn, but where would be the fun without all of his mishaps?
“Anyway, it does not matter. We might try it again with the proper amount of paprika powder, but NOT with cinnamon. This is the worst combination of spices I have ever eaten.”
~ finis ~