The best thing about a Thanksgiving Day meal, I remembered again this year, is the pumpkin pie after the turkey and dressing and whatever else weighs down the dinner table.
Pumpkin isn’t my favorite. Given the choice, I’d have blueberry everytime, followed by apple, rhubarb and peach. If I were with a couple of grandkids at Al’s Oasis, I’d split one of those specialty pies, all flaky crust, chocolate or lemon filling topped with a pile of that fluffy stuff called meringue. Sometimes the chocolate version comes with a lively dusting of sprinkles on the meringue. Sprinkles make the dessert even more festive, especially when the pie is shared with a granddaughter.
Even though pumpkin pie isn’t my first choice, don’t get the idea I’d turn it down if it were offered. Never have, never expect to. I can be picky about some things in this life, but pie isn’t one of them. You can have your cakes and doughnuts and fudges and chocolates. I’ll take pie, any flavor of pie. I’ll take the cakes and doughnuts and stuff too, if that’s what’s available, but I’d as some have pie.
That’s where the Thanksgiving tradition of pumpkin pie comes in. I can’t think of another holiday that has as its tradition a serving of pie — any sort of pie. I suppose George Washington’s birthday could have once had a tradition of cherry pie, if the honest kid’s mom had taken the fruit from that cherry tree he cut down and turned it into a dessert. But nobody taught us that such a thing happened, Besides, a while back we combined Washington’s birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. There’s no way a Presidents Day celebration has pie associated with it.
I took an online quiz the other evening that was titled “What Holiday are you.” One of my granddaughters has a blog, and occasionally she’ll make up a quiz. This one was about holidays and I came closest to being Bastille Day. That holiday isn’t cause for major celebration in the United States, I suppose, but as a key part of the French Revolution of 1789, it’s kind of a big deal across the ocean.
I did a quick, superficial online search, but I couldn't find that pie or any other food is a tradition of Bastille Day. Cake? Maybe cake is a tradition. After all, Marie Antoinette supposedly said, “Let them eat cake.”
I got my love of pie from my mother. She was a skilled pie maker. She was also a finicky one. She cooked for a big farming family, so she could whip up mountains of food. She always set a table with tasty, filling things, and I don’t recall her ever worrying that the pot roast or the mashed potatoes or the green beans weren’t fit to serve.
Pie was something else. She prided herself on her crusts. They were out of this world, truly. If one of her crusts turned out merely pretty, she tossed it in the garage can and started over. I’m not kidding. Ask my brothers and sisters. We all saw it happen, more than once. The pie crusts she threw away? I’d have given a silver dollar to have made one even half as flaky and light. She wouldn’t lower her standards and be just pretty good. She wasn’t usually fussy. The space under the upstairs bed usually was a big convention of dust bunnies. Fine. But a pie crust less than perfect? Get it out of here.
She taught me that pies can be important. So did an editor friend years ago. Not long out of alcohol treatment, he joined a bunch of us at a newspaper gathering. One tradition at the gathering was some social drinking in the evening. My friend came up to me early on and whispered, “I brought two whole pies at Al’s. If I get shaky, you and I are going to my room and we’re going to eat those pies.” Before the night was over, we did, every piece.
Neither pie was pumpkin, but if it had been, we’d have eaten it just as heartily. It was pie, after all.