Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Why Pumpkin Pie And I Don't "Mix"
(This is an early 1920's postcard from my vast collection.....)
I wrote the following several years ago and thought it would be appropriate for this Thanksgiving..................
Making a pumpkin pie is not a science. It is really easy. The recipe is right on the label of the canned pumpkin you buy in the store. For as long as I remember, Mom would dump all the ingredients in the blender, blend it up, and pour it into a pie shell. And hour or so in the oven, and pouf! The tender holiday dessert we all know and love. I did it myself, once or twice.
Then I decided it was just too easy. I got bitten by the Martha Stewart bug one Thanksgiving. What Mom had taught me was run of the mill kid's cookbook stuff, I thought. Plain bread stuffing? No way. Cornbread and kale stuffing. Green bean casserole? Heh! Some broccoli concoction looked more complicated. Pumpkin pie made from the stuff in the can? No thanks. Canned pumpkin was for the amateurs.
I plucked our harvest pumpkin off the front porch, baked and pureed it, reserved what I needed for a pie, and froze the rest in convenient little baggies, all the while wearing a self satisfied smirk. That pie turned out all right, but I must have angered the Holiday Baking gods, because I have had no luck with baking pumpkin pie since.
The next Thanksgiving pie turned out gorgeous - until my brother Eli took his first bite, and immediately dumped more cool whip on it. So as not to upset me, he kindly asked what was different about the pumpkin pie this year? I grabbed a bite, and it dawned on me as I spit it out: I forgot the sugar. That's OK, I thought. I'll show them at Christmas!
On Christmas Eve, I did my pie baking. I rolled out my pastries, lined my pie plates, pulled out my blender, and reached for a can of pumpkin - MIX?! Add eggs and milk? What is this all about? Turns out Mom reached for what she thought was canned pumpkin and grabbed the mix instead, when she was doing the shopping. The pie turned out all right, but mix is mix, and I could just hear the pie jeering at me from the buffet: "I'm a MIX! I'm a MIX!"
The next Thanksgiving, I was extremely careful, and I managed to turn out a beautiful pie. I secretly patted myself on the back for this redemptive culinary offering; and set the thing on the counter to cool with the pecan and other pies. Everyone who came through the kitchen admired it, and suggested that, maybe, after years of mediocre pie, we were finally getting a proper pumpkin pie.
Until I opened up the cabinet overhead and PLOP! - a can of green beans fell directly into the center of the perfect pie, splattering filling all over the place, including me, as I stood there in utter disbelief. We ate the pie anyway, after having spooned it out in gobs, instead of slices.
Never to be discouraged, I tried again the following Christmas - and dropped the whole pie as I took it from the oven. Pumpkin pie filling got all over the oven, the floor, the wall, the fridge - we had to thoroughly clean the oven before the turkey could go in.
This past Thanksgiving, 2007, I tried yet again. I baked the pie; it looked terrific - and nobody wanted any after dinner. Apple and pecan were the choices of the evening. No matter - there were always leftovers to be accompanied by a delightful slice of pumpkin pleasure.
The next day my sister Noelle (who was following my pumpkin pie baking drama year by year with a sick fascination, and is always ready with a running commentary on my progress - or lack of it - ) fixed herself a slice, with her classic whopping gobs of cool whip. ("Want any PIE with that cool whip, Noelle?") She never finished it. It all got tossed.
"It tastes fermented," she scoffed. "Nobody remembered to stick it in the fridge." She went away snickering.
Sure enough, one whiff of it was enough to curl your toes, and cross your eyes. Not even my Dad, who will typically eat anything even if it is remotely questionable, could eat it. That pie went into the trash and nobody had pumpkin pie with their leftovers in 2007.
How many more pumpkin pie sacrifices the Holiday Baking gods will require, I don't know; or how many more pumpkin pie casualties the family will face before I triumph over my foe: The Holiday Pumpkin Pie.
Note: The past few pumpkin pies I have made were fine. And, I still do it sometimes with a real pumpkin. In fact, when the grocery had no canned pumpkin this evening, I ran by my Mom's, picked up her pumpkin, baked it in the oven for a hour or so, and now I have fresh natural pumpkin waiting in the fridge. And, this year, I am not baking a pumpkin pie. I found something so much more delectable - Pumpkin Roulade; with cream cheese filling........ Yum!!