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I have great neighbors.  They house sit, fix things and share treats.  So when Mrs. Neighbor knocked on the door in the fall and gave me tickets to a series of chamber concerts I was delighted.  She didn’t want them because she didn’t like chamber music.  What I didn’t tell her was I don’t really care for chamber music either.  What I do enjoy is an opportunity to get dolled up and experience something new.

Unfortunately I missed the first concert of the series.  Just too much life going on.  But I made sure I got to this one.  Everyone kept asking me what they were playing.  No clue.  No idea what to expect in the slightest!  Just knew I was going out.

The concert was in a church in a part of town I knew, but hadn’t been to in years.  Now I know why, slightly sketchy, but not terrible.  My Mother would disapprove if she knew I was walking around at night by myself in this neighborhood. (but since she doesn’t read this, I’m safe).  The concert was at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church and as it turns out was a benefit for their food program, St Stephen’s Table.

The organization Portland Chamber Music is headed up by a young guy, Josh, who before the concert went around the room and greeted the 30-40 people who were there.  He introduced himself, thanked folks for coming, and asked how we’d ended up with there.  At the beginning of the concert, he stood up and said chamber music was the radio of old.  Way, way, way back when, people would get sheet music and the family would sit around at night and play (thus this was the radio).  He encouraged us to think of this as sitting around in someone’s living room and if we needed a cup of tea or a bologna sandwich (provided by Stephen’s Table) while they were playing, please feel free to get up and get one.

Josh also told us that the concert would only last about an hour.  While I wasn’t expecting this to be an all-nighter, it was nice to know if I found this boring, I wouldn’t be tortured too long.  They played a range from Bach and Mozart to Coldplay, an original piano piece by one of the people from the mission next door and read a short story by Leo Tolstoy.

There was one brief intermission, which we had been told would be more like a stretch break.  It was then we sauntered back to get a cup of coffee or lemonade and bologna sandwich (cut in triangle quarters).  We laughed at how comforting a bologna sandwich is.  Instantly taking you back to your youth.  Really, think about it.  When was the last time you had a bologna sandwich?

The concert was short and sweet, just as Josh had promised.  They did a pretty good job, there were a few things they cold have skipped, but overall it was lovely.   They reminded us this was a benefit for St Stephen’s Table and they need more volunteers now that they have a mobile unit in SE.  The new mobile unit is over in my ‘hood.  I had been thinking I needed a new worthy cause.  Since I’m always yakking about food, I figured this would be a good fit.  I gave them my card and was told the organizer would be in touch.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

In the spirit of one good turn deserves another, I baked a loaf of pumpkin bread and took it over the neighbors to say Thanks!  Per my habit, I made the typical modifications, which I have indicated in parentheses.  The loaf turned out quite nice and made a lovely gift.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Bon Appétit | November 1995 (found via epicurious.com)
by Vern Bertagna: West Frankfort, Illinois

They suggest you serve one of these loaves the day you make them. Then wrap the other in foil and freeze up to one month so that you’ll have it on hand for unexpected company.

Yield: Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:
3 cups sugar (I used 2 cups)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 cups all purpose flour (1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 ap)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
(instead of their spice blend, I subbed 1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (+ ¾ cup minced crystallized ginger)

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.  (My oven tends to run a bit warm, so I found them done perfectly at 1 hour.)

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