Of course there’s the turkey and cranberry sauce (my favorite), but nothing says Thanksgiving and foretells the winter holidays like pumpkin pie.
I love pumpkins. I love everything about pumpkins—from seed to stem to shell to symbolism. The pumpkin suggests fecund earthiness; for me, it’s the icon of the harvest.
This time of year pumpkins are everywhere we look, and no wonder. It seems we need the promise of the harvest fulfilled to get us through the hard winter ahead.
The early Americans depended upon pumpkins for their survival. Here’s a delightful yet sobering Pilgrim verse (circa 1633) about our favorite gourd:
Stead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.
I first encountered this stanza on page 251 of the Campbell’s Great American Cookbook (Random House, 1984), which precedes the recipe for pumpkin pie.
Over the years, I consulted this volume many times while learning to make traditional American dishes. This was before online cookbooks, and the pages are marked with the fingerprints of a budding cook deep into discovering new dishes.
For all the ease and benefits of online accessibility and communication—and isn’t that what’s happening right here and now?—there’s nothing that can replace turning the pages of a hand-held book.
When I met my future husband, I returned to my well-worn copy of the Great American Cookbook to learn how to make Buffalo chicken wings (not a staple of my American-Italian diet). I’ll confess that I’d never tasted them. But my homemade blue cheese dressing (with secret ingredient) was definitely the way to his heart…
I still strive to surround myself with poetry, pumpkins, and printed matter.
May we always surround ourselves with good things that help us survive and all that allows us—and those we love—to thrive.
p.s. Here are a few good links to pieces on pumpkin history:
“Some Pumpkins,” on the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation website;
“All About Pumpkins,” on the Jack Creek Farms website; and “Pumpkins,” on the American Heritage Vegetables website of the Center for Digital Humanities of South Carolina.