Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My First Pumpkin Pie From Scratch

As many of you are aware, my mother is in the hospital with pneumonia. She is doing much better! I just got off the phone with her and I know she is better because she had a long list of orders -- she calls them suggestions but I know better. This will be the first Thanksgiving she hasn't been able to cook the entire meal herself. She's a bit miffed with that and wants to make certain we're 'doing it right'. She sent reinforcements in -- her sister -- to help my daughter with the meal. Yes, I have to laugh at that too!

So as I talked to my mom and made the list, she said, "Make sure you buy the cheap frozen pumpkin pies, not the expensive ones. And for heaven's sake, don't you try to make one!"

No, I was not offended by her request/demand/suggestion. After my first attempt at making a pumpkin pie from scratch a few years ago, my family made me swear never to try to make one again. Yes, it was that bad! 

Picture it...Illinois...2009...Thanksgiving. A woman on the cusp of menopause. A family gathered for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner......A woman (me) makes two of the most beautiful pumpkin pies she'd ever seen. She was happy, elated, over-the-moon proud of her accomplishment. She'd never made a pumpkin pie before. They were beautiful.

We had finished stuffing ourselves with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, green bean casserole and all the other things we make for this meal. There is always room for pie. I'm not sure, but I think that is on our family crest. As we all sat around my mother's living room, men with belts undone and everyone awash in the afterglow of a fine meal, it was time for pie.

My husband's favorite pie is pumpkin. I had made the most beautiful pies, quite proud of myself as this was my first attempt and quite frankly, they could have graced the cover of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. I was almost giddy with pride and could not wait to give a big slice to my husband.

So we cut the pies, plated them, some with whipped cream some without. My husband prefers his without. My daughters helped me serve the family. I was too full for pie (I'd rather have mashed potatoes for my dessert.)

I sat with unconcealed excitement, next to my husband, waiting to hear how wonderful the pie tasted. Everyone took a bite as I smiled and waited.

It was like watching synchronized swimming. All forks went down on plates at same time. My husband, God bless him, didn't even flinch, but the rest of the family did.

"How does it taste, honey? Is it good?" I asked with a big smile.

He cleared his throat. "I think I'm just too full."

Now, I've seen my husband consume an entire pumpkin pie in one sitting and that was after a big meal. I knew something was up. I looked around the room. No one was eating the pie, save for my son, who had a half a tub of cool whip on his slice. My daughters were glancing at each other, my mother had gone seven shades of gray. I caught a glimpse of "should I flee now?" in my son-in-law's eyes.

I looked at my husband. "What is wrong?" I whispered in his ear. "Are you ill?"

Kevin leaned in and whispered, "Honey, um, how much sugar did you put in the pie?"

"Sugar? What sugar?"

He blinked. I blinked.

"I used pumpkin pie filling. All I had to add was some milk and eggs. Everything else was already in it."

That is when the room erupted into a fit of laughter. My mother, who normally has my back in all situations, was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her face.

"Did you read the recipe on the back of the can?" My daughter asked.

"Yes, I did miss smarty pants!"

"Did you have your readers on?" My other daughter asked.

Insulted, I stomped to mom's kitchen, found a can of pumpkin pie filling and began to read the recipe on the back. Damned print was so tiny! I grabbed my glasses from my purse while the traitors I used to call family continued to laugh. I began to read the recipe aloud and stopped, dead in my tracks. "Evaporated milk, cinnamon, salt....damn."

Sugar? How on earth did I miss it? I didn't even think to add sugar, thinking it was already sweetened. "But apple pie filling and blueberry pie filling, they all have the sugar already in it! Why in the heck doesn't pumpkin pie filling???" I went nine shades of red. My daughters fell to the floor, rolling, holding their sides, unable to breathe because they were laughing so hard.

"Now I know why alligators eat their young!" I told them.

My son piped up. "Its okay if you put enough cool whip on it." He was sincere, God love him.

My husband smiled, patted me on the head and told me not to worry, he still loved me. My daughters were not so kind. They made me swear never, and I do mean never to bake another pumpkin pie again, at least not without my reading glasses and adult supervision.

My youngest daughter bought pumpkin pies last night. The expensive ones - but don't tell mom.

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