Thanks for the Memories

Thanksgiving, for me, begins with pie. P-I-E, pie. Not so much for the eating, as for the making of pies. For with the pie making come the memories.

Cherry, pumpkin, apple, pecan . . . Just saying the word, as the song goes, "Makes my eyes light up/My tummy say 'howdy'!"- from Shoo-fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdie

Cherry, pumpkin, apple, pecan . . . Just saying the word, as the song goes, "Makes my eyes light up/My tummy say 'howdy'!"- from Shoo-fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdie

The memories begin creeping in while I’m writing my grocery list: apples, pecans, cranberries, canned pumpkin, corn syrup, pie spices, sugar, flour, shortening. . .  American Thanksgiving is a feast in celebration of North American foods gathered at the first harvest. So it follows that American Thanksgiving foods are cooked from ingredients grown, produced, and readily available in North America.

How many hours did I spend going store to store in Indonesia searching for those same unheard of items? Explaining cranberry sauce and pecans to the Indonesian custom officers; baking my first fresh pumpkin pie; the barrage of text messages heralding “Ranch Market has Crisco!”

How I would have welcomed that text as I drove from shop to shop, round and round Port-of-Spain and surrounds, Tuesday. Trinidad stores are well-stocked and carry all manner of imported goods.  I’d worried some, about finding a nice turkey, but never dreamed I’d spend hours searching for ground cloves and shortening, lard, or TT equivalent. 

Shona and Charles lugged these blocks from New York to Turks & Caicos, Trinidad, Houston, and the 1000s of milesback to Port Alfred just so they'd grace their South African Thanksgiving.

Shona and Charles lugged these blocks from New York to Turks & Caicos, Trinidad, Houston, and the 1000s of milesback to Port Alfred just so they'd grace their South African Thanksgiving.

Nanny, my grandmother, in 1981. Nanny always used Crisco brand shortening. Nanny would say she wasn’t much of a cook, (although, aside from red meat which she liked cooked until it was “tough as shoe leather” everyone disagreed; and no one ever left her table dissatisfied) & she made glorious pies. 

Nanny, my grandmother, in 1981. Nanny always used Crisco brand shortening. Nanny would say she wasn’t much of a cook, (although, aside from red meat which she liked cooked until it was “tough as shoe leather” everyone disagreed; and no one ever left her table dissatisfied) & she made glorious pies. 

Hand written recipes are pure gold. A smudge of chocolate here, a crusty bit there, memories of the dear ones who wrote them on every card.

Hand written recipes are pure gold. A smudge of chocolate here, a crusty bit there, memories of the dear ones who wrote them on every card.

My go-to cookbook and recipe folder, taped together and stuffed with hand-written recipes from my grandmother, my mom, their friends, my 10 year-old scratch. 

My go-to cookbook and recipe folder, taped together and stuffed with hand-written recipes from my grandmother, my mom, their friends, my 10 year-old scratch. 

From the time I was big enough to stand with my chin over the edge of the table, I helped. (Before that, the story goes, Nanny plopped me in the highchair with a blob of pie dough. I’d merrily mush and masticate while she rolled & baked.) She who capitalized the "P" in perfectionist, didn't allow anyone to interfere with the making of her pie. However, when the last pie was in the oven, training time--fun time--began. Nanny'd turn the rolling pin over to me.

 I’d roll it, smear on a layer of butter, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, roll the dough into a long tube, cut it into bite-sized pieces and bake. We call these pie-twists. I taught my daughter to make them. And yesterday, Mimi and I used the last of the dough to make pie-twists, too. It’s what we do.

 I’d roll it, smear on a layer of butter, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, roll the dough into a long tube, cut it into bite-sized pieces and bake. We call these pie-twists. I taught my daughter to make them. And yesterday, Mimi and I used the last of the dough to make pie-twists, too. It’s what we do.

Mimi, my neifrie (upstairs neighbor & friend) came over yesterday while I baked pies. Not to “get in my way” she assured me, but more to watch and keep me company. Before Mimi arrived, I was kind-of, sort-of . . . a lot nervous.  Even with several batches of my secret weapon, Nanny’s Never Fail Pie Crust, chilling in the fridge, things could go wrong. I prefer to “make corrections” without witnesses. . .

Who'd a thunk a chilled bottle of rum punch serving as rolling pin could result in such a fine lattice work top for a cherry pie? Adele, my mom-in-law gifted me with the bottle her grandmother used as a rolling pin. 

Who'd a thunk a chilled bottle of rum punch serving as rolling pin could result in such a fine lattice work top for a cherry pie? Adele, my mom-in-law gifted me with the bottle her grandmother used as a rolling pin. 

We made a grand pie making adventure of it yesterday, Mimi and me. Mimi measured and mixed, stirred and washed while I rolled and crimped and fussed over each crust. Into each pie, along with the sugar and spice, fruit, flour and TT shortening substitute, we stirred memories—wisps of every holiday past and every person of them: my nanny, her mom and mine, our kids, our friends, our lives.  

Thanks for the memories!

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