It's possible to make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin (as opposed to a canned one). But like natural childbirth, why would anyone want to do that?
Perhaps a pie baked from the wholesome natural gourd tastes immensely better than one scooped from a container. Certainly, the original cooking process is more time-consuming and messy. However, it could offer a culinary connection to our nation's foremothers. And since I still had a fully intact pumpkin left over from Halloween, I decided to find out.
Through research I discovered that the first Thanksgiving feast hadn't included anything sweet, unless you count dried fruits and lucrative food swaps. In exchange for the five deer (or about 200 lbs. of venison) the Indians brought to the table, the pilgrims shared with them some roasted fowl. This worked out so well that later the settlers tricked their friends into trading them land for a bunch of casinos.
Anyway, armed with only the vaguest instructions, I ventured into the kitchen to reenact an early American custom.
My daughter Laura agreed to be my accomplice. "Let me see what the recipe says," I said to her. "I've no clue what I'm doing."
The guidelines suggested only that I should start with a two- to four-pounder. Lifting the jack-o-lantern size melon in front of me, I speculated it weighed slightly more.
"Put it on the bathroom scale," Laura advised.
According to that gauge, the pumpkin weighed 13 pounds. But I dismissed the apparent conflict.
Stabbing at the leathery rind with a butcher knife, I narrowly missed puncturing my spleen. "Maybe you should get out your electric knife," my helper cautioned.
"Either that or your dad's chainsaw," I replied.
By the time I finished sawing the gourd, I'd coated the countertops, electrical outlets and both our shirts in yellow-orange pulp.
A cloud of odors emanated from the freshly cut fruit, creating a stench that smelled like mildewed towels and Roquefort cheese. Between gags, Laura scraped at the stringy orange mess laced with seeds. We both wanted to puke. "Just think," she said, "once upon a time, somebody smelled this and actually thought it might make a good pie."
After an hour of baking, the meat of our work had roasted tender. It was time to remove the skin and puree the soggy yellow chunks. But the pumpkin's texture demanded prolonged mashing, which naturally required me to use an ancient cooking tool known as the food processor.
My pie recipe called for 12 ounces of cooked pumpkin, so I stopped blending at 10 cups. (Note to cooks: A thirteen-pound pumpkin yields enough goo to fill a swimming pool.)
"You have to make the crust from scratch," Laura enthused. "Using a store-bought one just wouldn't do. Not after all this."
She was right, though I hated to admit it.
Six hours after our official start time; I removed from the oven a perfectly ordinary, questionably prepared and thoroughly unattractive desert. My feet throbbed, kitchen reeked, and sink overflowed. I'd burned up an electric knife, a food processor, half my day and the last of my patience.
Now I know why the pilgrims' feast didn't include this traditional desert. If they'd served pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving would've lasted at least two days longer! And the meat might have rotted before the pies were done.
Take it from me; the best way to make a pumpkin pie—is to let your grocer bake it.
Picking Up Where America's Beloved Erma Bombeck Left Off, Texas' Diana Estill Waxes Poetic on Designer Dogs, Celtic Pride, Massage-phobia and other Hilarity Gleaned from Ordinary Life.
Whether she is debating the fashion statement made by spa panties or translating the sports definition of "Halftime" (the quantitative measurement used to compare the pace of meal consumption during football season to otherwise normal eating habits), Diana Estill amuses by taking potshots at ordinary life. Her latest book, Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road: Humorous Views on Love Lust and Lawn Care, reminds us that the funniest people are sometimes those right there at home, hogging the remote.
Derived from her self-syndicated weekly humor column, "The View Askew," Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road, is a collection of 55 hilarious tales of misadventure. One-part travel humor, one-part survival guide and one-part marriage therapy, this book will appeal to anyone who longs for a deep belly laugh.
Estill is your mom, your sister, your neighbor. Her stories touch a cosmic funny bone because we've all shared her experiences: husbands with a snore decibel capable of triggering the neighbor's car alarm, mothers adverse to technology since the dawn of the VCR clock and teenagers rife with sarcasm. Her spoofs on the "scams" of free gas with new car purchases and the entanglements of electronics rebates offer readers a rollicking ride through the familiar. Some of Estill's tales are advisory: hurricane preparation, the dangers of jalapeño juice, dealing with aging parents and — worst of all — navigating a mall with a man.
For baby boomers, this Texas storyteller spouts pure social commentary. Young people may think of her as mom when she mispronounces "ginkgo biloba" as the lesser known heavyweight herb, "ginkgo balboa."
Estill has been a journalist and humor columnist for 10 years. Her work has appeared online, in magazines and in major newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Miami Herald and The Dallas Morning News. She was a finalist in the August 2005 America's Funniest Humor Contest. She lives with her husband in North Texas, where she claims authorities will issue most anyone a valid driver's license.
PS. The Hall Family visited Cover's Apple Ranch today and we picked up a fresh pumpkin. After reading Estill's article, we thought we'd give it a go. I promise to take lots of pictures and let you know how it goes.
You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well we didn't make a pumpkin pie from scratch after all but when I do, I promise you will read about it here.
Updated: November 6, 2009
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