Tall Drink of Nerd: Thanksgiving Pie Edition
A blogumn by Amy Robinson
I can’t bake a pumpkin pie like my Mom’s. I asked her for the recipe once, many years ago, hoping she’d share the family secret. She said, “It’s on the label of the canned pumpkin.” My Mother – the gourmet. All the variations I’ve attempted from this little orange paper scrap of a recipe don’t measure up to anything I grew up with. Maybe it’s the difference in altitude, she’s Rocky Mountain high and I’m at sea level; maybe it’s a difference between my brand new oven and her 25 yr old oven; maybe pies taste better when you’re surrounded by 30 noisy family members.
I can’t make a piecrust like my Mom’s. Once, many years ago, I made a kick-ass piecrust, lovingly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, but couldn’t repeat it. After years of failed attempts at a crust, all of them crumbly and puzzled-pieced into the pie tin, I asked my Mom what I was doing wrong. “I haven’t made a crust in 20 years.” She told me. “Go buy the Pillsbury crust. They’re just as good as homemade” She’s right about the crusts, but they still don’t taste like they used to.
I can’t make an apple pie like my Mom’s. She uses pie filling she’d canned earlier in the year. Every fall, Mom heats up a big black kettle on her stove, tosses in a few bushels of cored apples from the apple tree, a few dozen cups of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Her kitchen smells like apple pie. The teen me hated helping her can, all that coring and peeling of apples wrinkled my fingers, but I would love coming home from school to that cinnamon smell warming the kitchen. Mom would always set aside a little bit of filling for us to snack on. I think that smell made her hungry.
Mom has stacks of canned goods in her basement. In addition to pie filling, canned peaches and cherries, she makes the best pickles in the county. Now, I don’t get any of that good stuff. I moved 1,495 miles away and she doesn’t want to ship her jars that far. She likes to re-use the jars. I used to be able to take the pie filling with me when I flew, but after the TSA took over the airports, one of those jars is too much liquid in a carry on bag. Since I can’t make a pie like my Mom’s (though I’m still trying), I have to get my fill of pumpkin and apple pie when I go home.