mama’s pumpkin bread for the holidays

Day 13 of  NaBloPoMo post a day in November challenge.

Mama loved to eat. All her life she struggled with a weight problem though, so she was often dieting as I was growing up. She’d lose several dress sizes, and gradually go back to her eating habits and gain it all back again. When I’d go home for visits, I always slept in one of the two spare bedrooms and dressed out of my suitcase each day. No room in the closets for she had them full of clothing she’d probably had all her life, all colors and all sizes. Probably one reason I’ve been able to pretty much maintain my weight over my lifetime has to do with watching her and coming to the conclusion that yo-yo diets all your life make you fat.

In the late 1980’s or very early in 1990 when she was in her ‘mid seventies, her doctor found a spot on her lung in an x-ray and told her she had cancer. He explained that cancer grows much slower in  older people because their metabolisms are so much slower, so she may have a year or two, maybe more,  years to live doing nothing. Or, she could submit to a round or two of radiation treatments directed at the spot and that it might work since it was relatively small.

She seemed stunned at this diagnosis and was at a loss for words sitting there on the examining table. I expect I would be too, actually. Finally, looking back and forth from the doctor to the nurse holding her hand, she recovered enough to respond. “Well then, I’m going to eat whatever I want and as much as I want from now on!”

That reasoned response broke the spell and the doctor and nurse had to apologize for laughing. Seeing as how at the time she was tipping the scales at 200 pounds on a 5’2″ frame, and understanding this was not to time to talk about dieting, I can understand why they were amused. My mother, as she aged, became very good at saying what was on her mind, regardless of how politically incorrect it might have sounded. I hope it will happen to me. Hubby might say I’m already there! 🙂

Radiation was the treatment they chose, and she went on to take one full round. She’d complain from time to time that her chest was beginning to look like burnt toast. We talked on the phone every week and she seemed to stay very upbeat. After the treatment was completed, new x-rays showed her to be completely cancer-free. She died years later, in 1999, of congestive heart failure just a few days shy of her 85th birthday.

‘Coulda been the radiation, ‘coulda been a misdiagnosis, or it occurs to me that it ‘coulda been a prayer induced miracle, I don’t know. I suspect though, that the outcome could be traced to her plucky “I’m gonna go down eating, death be damned” attitude.

Here’s a recipe for Mama’s Pumpkin Bread. I think she’d be really happy I’m sharing it with you in time for the holidays.


Beat together:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt


1 cup pumpkin puree
1 + 2/3 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup raisins or coconut

Mix just until all ingredients are blended and moist and bake in a lightly oiled 5×9 loaf pan for and hour and half at 350°F. (Or when it’s pulling away from the sides of the pan and tests done with a cake tester.) Let bread cool for a half hour before removing it from pan. Bon appetite.

Note: I modified the recipe slightly here in the higher altitudes and got great results, so if you’re above 3600 feet it might work for you too. I lowered the oven to 325° and left out about 1/8th of a cup of the sugar. I was afraid the hour and a half were too long to bake it, so I took it out after an hour and twenty minutes. It was good, and very moist, but next time I think I’ll watch it and leave it in the oven for the whole hour and a half. I think it’ll slice with less crumbs if I do that, more like bread than cake.

10 thoughts on “mama’s pumpkin bread for the holidays

  1. I took it out after an hour and three-quarters. It was good, and very moist, but next time I think I’ll watch it and leave it in the oven for the whole hour and a half.

    Wait, what?

    • Goof big time! I took it out after about an hour and 20 minutes. While it was technically “done” I think it would have sliced better–more like bread than cake–if I’d waited the whole hour and a half. Sorry about that! (I’m sneakin’ in and fixin’ it right now.

  2. A lovely story! What a lot we have in common! My husband also feels that I have too much tendency to speak my mind. These Indian gentleman are too much used to submissive undemanding women I’m thinking. My mom too was healed of cancer. That was ten years ago.

    • Lot in common except I’m about 20 years ahead of you. Seeing that, I guess I’ll have to look out for you. How’s that?! I’m so glad your mom beat out cancer too. Do you think you’ll be visiting Ireland next year?

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