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My mother's kind of pumpkin pie

A new pumpkin pie recipe was no match for a family favorite.

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While trying out a new pumpkin pie recipe for a cookbook I was writing, I was suddenly struck by a feeling of betrayal. For the recipe I was using was not my mother's masterfully prepared pie that I always loved and anticipated at Thanksgiving. Even though she encouraged culinary exploration of a sort, certain recipes were deemed unchangeable in her kitchen. Pumpkin pie is one of them. Yet, here I was making a "spicy" pumpkin pie with brown sugar, molasses, and half-and-half, ingredients she would not recognize as part of the recipe pantheon. The spicy pumpkin pie gave me pause. What is it about my mother's pumpkin pie that I hold so dear?

My mother was always the pie baker. Even when she had help, she insisted on making the pie filling. Mom leaned against the counter, turned the mixer on, and I'd watch that frothy deep orange mixture swirling around in the white Pyrex mixing bowl decorated with olive green daisies. She always ended up smeared in pumpkin. We'd all be engrossed in our own task – peeling potatoes and chestnuts – when all of a sudden, she'd squeal, which would prompt my Aunt Mart to burst into giggles over the splatters of pumpkin everywhere and Mom's lack of eye-hand coordination. Was it because of her refusal to wear eyeglasses or her weariness? After all, she worked as a maid at a hotel all day long and then came home to bake her holiday meals.


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