With Thanksgiving just a week away I have been giving a lot of thought as to what pies to prepare for the holiday meal. Truth be told I have also been receiving a lot of suggestions from family on the same topic. I've also been thinking about what the meal means to those who partake, and how it symbolizes the connectedness of families across generations.
The Thanksgiving meal, including the dessert, poses some interesting issues. For many families the holiday is a time to celebrate tradition. Grandma's recipe for stuffing, for example, may be the only option. To consider a change in this central element of the meal is viewed in some families as a form of heresy. Many families also settle into well defined roles in terms of who prepares various courses. There is a certain level of comfort in knowing that Aunt Betty will bring the cranberries, and Uncle Walt will be in the kitchen mashing the potatoes 15 minutes before dinner is served. Tradition reigns in these families.
Other families favor deviating from tradition, which ironically can become a tradition in itself. I, for example, look for a new stuffing recipe each year. Cornbread, french bread, wild rice and other ingredients have made an appearance over the years. My wife has grown somewhat accustomed to this, although her own family tends toward using cherished recipes handed down from generation to generation. This year for example, our niece Carolyn will be making her Grandma's scratch dinner rolls. Grandma is no longer with us, and Carolyn received her instructions in bread baking back in 1998. I asked if she had taken notes. She had not, but recalls that the rising time of the dough was measured in the number of innings of a Chicago Cubs game. This can be a problem with handed down recipes. Instructions are not always very precise.
So what does this have to do with pies. As the pie baker I get caught between the traditionalists and my own inclination to try something new. Thanksgiving is not complete for some without a pumpkin pie, so there will be one. For others a pecan pie is required. I will bake one. I had a request for apple pie, and the request will be filled. I love all of those pies, but I can't leave it at that. I will also bake a Cran-Apple Walnut Pie, which is my new favorite. I would also recommend the Pumpkin Apple Pie reviewed on October 11 in this blog, or the Pear Cranberry Pie reviewed on October 18. Each of these pies combines traditional fall fruits into a luscious dessert. So if you're looking to shake things up at the Thanksgiving table this year try one of these pies.