This was the first autumn in years I didn’t cook my pumpkins. And without pumpkins there’s no fresh pumpkin pie.
This year there would be no orange pulp to cook, puree, and squeeze through cheese cloth. No dough rolled out from my mother’s worn, wooden rolling pin. No flour dotted pages to turn on the warped old cook book (the one I didn’t need anymore as I knew the recipe by heart). It was the first cook book I ever had. The one given to me from my mother to make my first kitchen complete. The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cook Book.
This year the book would sit on a shelf. There would be no home made whip cream laced with nutmeg and vanilla to grace that gooey pumpkin custard. No flaky crust to hang down from the over sized pie dish with flowers on the bottom. My mother gave me that too.
I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened. Too busy. Too many projects. For the first time it just didn’t feel important. I had proven to my mother once that I made a better pumpkin pie than her. She said so. And the truth was in her saying.
It was even good the year she pulled my pie from the oven and with one slip of her hands she flipped it over upside down on the oven door. We looked at each other and laughed. And as the guests waited in the candle-lit dining room with the cornucopia on the table, we quickly scooped up the mush and arranged it perfectly back in the crust. No one knew.
That was before the cancer came. Her body was strong and vibrant then, like her spirit.
I think I’ve gotten my mother’s gravy down. The jury is still out. And my mother will never be able to tell me so. But I’ll know. Then there’s her southern biscuits to be made with sorghum, lemon meringue pie, and mincemeat pie.
There’s no rush. I have time ahead of me. Lots of time. And her notes in the margin to help. That swirly, on-the-go, right-slanted script I know by heart. It was shaky at the end. Unsteady and weak. But not this handwriting. The one in my cook book is dynamic and purposeful.
Like my mother. Like me.
I don’t have to prove my pumpkin pie to anyone anymore, least of all my mother. She’s been gone these last few Thanksgivings, but I know she’ll be part of my pumpkin pie forever.
Even if I don’t make it.