Side Orders: Memories of pumpkin pies past

photo Anne Braly

When my daughters were young, I thought it would be so much fun to go to the farmer's market and buy some pumpkins, come home and turn them into pumpkin pies, thinking fresh pumpkins would make them so much better.

Not that I really like pumpkin pie. In fact, I could easily spend every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life without having pumpkin pie and never miss it, especially when there are other desserts that are so much better to me, such as cheesecake and pecan pie.

Nonetheless, I didn't want my children to miss out on the experience of making a pumpkin pie from scratch. So I read up on it and, before long, we brought those little cooking pumpkins home.

The girls couldn't understand why they couldn't carve faces in them. The littlest one started crying while the other two proceeded to clean out the pumpkins, sending seeds and that stringy stuff that hides inside pumpkins all over the kitchen. What a mess.

After drying tears and cleaning the kitchen, I put the pumpkins in the oven. Once again, the littlest one started crying when she opened the oven and saw her pumpkin all soft and wilted.

"What happened to Jack?" she asked between tears.

"Who's Jack?" I asked. She pointed at the oven.

"Uh-oh," I said. Who ever thought making pumpkin pie would make a little girl cry?

When more tears were dried and all those pumpkins were out of the oven, we scooped the flesh, mashed it in the food processor and made our pies. What a chore this had become.

While the pies were baking I told the girls how much better they would be than ones made from canned pumpkin. We couldn't wait to take a bite. And when we did, I deflated. The two older girls said they couldn't tell the difference. With all the trouble we went to, I really thought it would taste so much better than any others. But it didn't. It tasted just like any pie made with canned pumpkin.

It did make for some funny memories, but I've never made a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin since. And, even though they're not my favorite, I always make one. Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving is as much an American tradition as turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and cranberries.

Here's a recipe I found at a couple of years ago. I made it and plan to try again this year. It's a good blend of cheesecake and pumpkin pie.

I have to admit that even I, the pumpkin-pie hater, just love it.

Layered Pumpkin Pie

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 (9-inch) pastry pie shell, unbaked

1 1/4 cups pumpkin purée

1/2 cup sugar

Dash salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup evaporated milk

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg; spread mixture in unbaked pastry shell. Combine pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Blend in the 2 beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Pour pumpkin mixture over cream cheese layer. Bake pumpkin pie at 350 degrees for 65 minutes, or until set. Cool pie thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, if desired.

National notice

Congratulations to The Farmer's Daughter at 1211 Hixson Pike in Riverview. In the December/January issue of Garden and Gun magazine, you'll find Southern Foodways Alliance Director John T. Edge's Top 10 dishes he encountered during his Southern travels this year. On that list are the sweet potato rolls at The Farmer's Daughter.

"As wisps of sweet and earthy vapors stream toward the glossy white ceiling, picture the nearby farm on which tiny sweet potato slips grew into leafy and leggy plants," he writes. "And fix on the knotty roots that gained purchase in the ground. Then bite. And taste what happens when a sweet potato reaches its sweeter potential."

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