Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to Bake a Pie from Scratch

“Have you ever made a pumpkin pie?” my 30-something son asked me the other day.

I looked at him as if he’d been raised by wolves. Had he forgotten ALL of the wonderful family traditions I’d implemented during his childhood?
Had I EVER MADE a pumpkin pie?

“Of course I’ve made pumpkin pie. Practically every year since you were born. The recipe was handed down to me by my mother who also baked a pumpkin pie every year, and I continued the tradition each Thanksgiving.”

He smiled that condescending smile we parents get when their child thinks he’s smarter than we are. “I mean, from scratch,” he added.

“Yes, from scratch. You probably don’t remember this, but we didn’t have Costco pies back in the day, so we HAD to make our pies from scratch. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love. I opened a can of Libby’s Pumpkin Pie mix—the one with the spices and stuff already in it—added the eggs and evaporated milk, stirred it up in a bowl, poured it into one of those refrigerated pie shells, and baked it. You loved my pies.”

That smile again. “No, I mean from SCRATCH. From actual pumpkins.”

You could have hit me in the face with a pie. A real pumpkin? They’re just for carving into funny faces at Halloween, aren’t they? I didn’t know regular people could actually make a real pie from a pumpkin.

“Uh, no. But…”

He held up a pumpkin. “I’m making pumpkin pie. From scratch.”

“From that?” I pointed to the “misshapen orange gourd-like squash” (the definition according to Wikipedia).


“I don’t think you can actually do that,” I said.

He patted me on the head—he’s taller than me now. I thought he might give me a cookie to keep me quiet. Instead he began getting out spoons and bowls and stuff, ready to prepare his misshapen gourd-like squash.

I watched in horror as he cut the pumpkin in half, and scooped out the seeds and stringy stuff. Then he cut the pumpkin into pieces and placed them inside a bowl WITH THE SKIN STILL ON. He added water, covered the bowl, and popped it in the microwave oven until it was cooked soft.

Once that was done, he peeled the skin off the “guts,” pureed the pumpkin with a potato masher until it was smooth, mixed in some sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice (the cloves were too expensive--$11 for a teeny tiny bottle), added eggs and evaporated milk, and poured it into the pie crust. Two hours later it was time to serve the baked and cooled pie.

I was a little reluctant to eat the thing, having watched the process, but my son had gone to a lot of trouble and I simply couldn’t refuse. Especially not after making him eat all those meals I’d prepared for him while he was growing up.

We all sat down and took our first bites.

OMG. Creamy, velvety, melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin pie. From a real pumpkin. Made by my son. He had put me to shame. What’s worse, he’d made it in his tiny RV kitchen while we were in Carmel.

Fine. I’ll show him. For Christmas, I’ll make the entire dinner from scratch.

Here, turkey, turkey…


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