June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:36 PM
"Well, here it is, the first day of November and, as always happens this time of year, the act of turning our clocks backwards seems to trigger throwing our lives into fast forward. Everyone I've talked to the past few days is already deep into holiday preparation, shopping, making lists, baking and/or making things for school/church/club bazaars, planning parties or holiday open houses, on and on. And my New York sister, ever mindful of sibling revenge for all those early years, has once again informed me she's almost finished her Christmas shopping and I should be expecting packages to arrive any day now. Bah! Humbug! I say we need a law that says that from the moment we turn our clocks backward until the day after Thanksgiving, there shall be no mention of nor preparation for Christmas. Not one word. No ads for Christmas shopping bargains, no Christmas decorations or desultory Santas, no parking lots full of Christmas trees, no salad shooter or clapping-hands-to-turn-on-lights commercials and certainly no mention of Tickle Me Elmo, Razor scooters, Christmas Barbie or whatever other expensive item is being touted as the must have Christmas toy this year. Anyone who breaks this law will be subject to heavy fines and prolonged exposure to every version of Dickens' Christmas Carol ever made. Of course, I feel the same way about Presidential elections. One month is more than sufficient for three boring debates, hours of tedious and confusing commercials and fast trips in and out of key states. I would like to propose a law that bans, under penalty of banishment to the Middle East, any electioneering, publicizing of candidates, mud-slinging, editorializing, fund raising, roadside signs, doorbell ringing or phone calling to tout candidates until exactly one month prior to actual time to vote. Think how exciting it would all be if every political wanna-be had just one month to raise money, get him/herself noticed and try to sway the public votes. Maybe, just maybe, it would even the playing field just a bit and, more importantly, we wouldn't all be so sick of the whole process and the people involved in it by election day. If I never see the faces of Gore and Bush or hear another word from their mouths, it will be too soon.Come on, Tim Eyman, if you must keep your puss in the news and your ego constantly inflated with your seemingly endless initiatives, how about making them really useful? Come up with a petition for either of my proposed laws and I'll sign in a heartbeat. Otherwise, my next proposed law will be to ban both Tim Eyman and Ralph Nader from public exposure for a period of not less than four years nor more than my lifetime.RecipesSo, back to November, which triggered all this. It's a wonderful time of year, sort of a last gasp of autumn before the winter doldrums set in. It's such a fine month for so many reasons, I always hate to see it rushed through just because the holidays are approaching. Take time to savor the incredible colors and bid farewell to the last leaves. And especially, take time to enjoy the pumpkin, cranberries, squash - the flavors of November.Post-Halloween Pumpkin Pudding1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened1/4 cup vegetable shortening1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed3 large eggs3 T. fresh lemon juice1 1/2 t. grated lemon rind1 cup flour1/2 t. each, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ground allspice1/4 t. ground nutmeg1 1/2 cups peeled grated fresh pumpkinWhipped cream1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and shortening. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time; then beat mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon rind.2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and powder, salt and spices. Stir this mixture into the creamed mixture. Add grated pumpkin, mixing thoroughly.3. Transfer mixture to a buttered 1 1/2-qt. ring mold, cover with buttered foil, and set the mold in a baking pan. Add enough hot water to reach 2/3 of the way up the sides of the mold and bake the pudding in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and continue baking for 1/2 hour more, or until a tester inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean. Allow pudding to cool on a rack for 10 minutes; run a knife around the edge and invert a platter over the mold, then invert the pudding onto it. Serve the pudding warm, with whipped cream. Double Cranberry Pound Cake2 sticks unsalted butter, softened3 1/2 cups sugar, divided (see instructions)4 large eggs, at room temp.2 1/2 cups flour1 t. baking powder1/2 t. each baking soda and salt2 T. ground ginger1/3 cup buttermilk4 cups fresh cranberries, divided (see instructions)1. In a large bowl with electric mixer, cream the butter. Add 2 cups of the sugar, a little at a time, and beat mixture until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.2. Into a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and ginger. Add to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat well after each addition.3. Fold in 2-1/2 cups of the cranberries and spoon batter into a buttered and floured 3-qt. baking pan such as a bundt or Kugelhupf pan. Smooth the top and bake in the middle of a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 1/4 hours or until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then turn out onto the rack to cool completely. 4. Make a glaze: In a heavy saucepan, cook the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar with 1 1/2 cups water over medium heat, stirring and washing down any crystals on side of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water. Cook until sugar is completely dissolved; add remaining cranberries (1 1/2 cups) and bring mixture to a boil. Boil it, undisturbed, until it registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Allow the glaze to cool slightly, then brush the cake with the warm cranberry glaze. Garnish with dried cranberries and mint leaves or with sugared whole cranberries. (To make these, dip whole fresh cranberries in lightly beaten egg white, then sugar, and place on waxed paper on a rack to dry.) "