Who would have guessed that “the diet” would become a vehicle for enhanced weekend variety? Previously, I had mentioned that driving kids to Whitehorse for recreational opportunities is a weekend pursuit familiar to me, as well as to many Dawsonites. But last weekend I shirked that responsibility, displacing the schlepping responsibility to another unsuspecting parent. And why, you might ask? Well, the truth is that another task of joyful potential was imminently presenting itself to the arena of daily responsibilities.
Suzanne had been dutifully storing the year’s supply of pie pumpkins in our cold storage room, which really isn’t a cold storage room at all, but rather, my otherwise cozy workshop / recreational room, which has been repurposed “for the greater good.” Now the room stores food, and my main purpose for the space has been diminished to a cold storage place for my coat, boots, and hockey gear, so that my climatization process might begin well before I even step outside.
So, with grave urgency and a voice of impending doom, Suzanne woke me, advising that her inspection of the food stores revealed a situation of calamitous proportions. There were “soft spots” appearing on the pumpkins. The dreaded soft spots that we all live in fear of. The harbingers of rot, the messengers of mold, the precursors of peril. And with all the vitality of Saint Nick on Christmas Eve, I leapt from my bed to save the pumpkins.
So, the initial examination revealed that 45 of the 75 stored pumpkins were in need of some sort of resuscitation, presumably tainted by a touch of frost. Suzanne did the initial triage, finding only a few code blacks. These were quickly dispatched, put out of their suffering by cold immersion in the great outdoors. We set to the code reds and yellows with some haste, fearful that the warmth of our working kitchen would disseminate the contagions, contaminating all that we have worked for, diminishing the project to a wasteland of sorrow. We put the code greens aside for the next day, knowing that they were not in immediate danger, reconciling that this was an undertaking with great magnitude.
Perhaps it is my training as a doctor or perhaps it is just human nature, but there is immense tactile joy when you insert your hand through the mold of a pumpkin, pulling out the diseased mush. In some ways, extracting the soft spot of pumpkins is better that dealing with human rot, as it does not have the same intensity of smell, which is unmistakably pervasive in the case of humans.
Anyway, back on track … the process was extensive. There was the washing, the debridement of mold and mush, the separation of salvageable parts, including those seeds that were not black, or tainted in a cobweb substance that reminded me of the dendrites of neurons, as demonstrated in electromagnetic images of the brain. There was the scrapping of the pulp, the peeling of the skins, the chopping, the packaging and finally, the freezing for future processing. We roasted seeds the whole while, using them as nourishment to fuel the event. We collected the discarded parts, marveling that there was not so much waste after all, and that most of it was being commissioned as food for the pigs and chickens of Dawson.
And at the end, using the logic that we were already in chopping mode, Suzanne pulls out more of the ubiquitous sugar beets for washing, peeling, chopping and boiling …
Since I retired, one of the common questions I field is, “so, what are you doing with all your free time now?” The truth is, the surgical part of my job is not much changed, it is just that my patients have.