I had thought to make it back from the store before the girls arrived for the pie-baking this morning, but they had already peeled and sliced an enormous bowl of apples and mixed up the first batch of piecrust dough by the time I walked in the door. Well, of course they did. I had forgotten that they are young women now, and that we have been making pies together since they were little girls. They know just what to do.
Our group is not complete. One is married and living in California, creating a version of the dinner she learned to prepare here, in her own home out there. A young man who baked with us a couple of times is in the service now. Another young woman who has sometimes been part of the bake-off is preoccupied this year: her father just died. She is the first of this group of friends to know that loss.
Soon the ovens were hot and the windows were beginning to fog. None of us could pin a name on the large squash Peg grew out back this past summer, but it yielded a tremendous amount of pale yellow flesh, enough for two large pies, a pot of pumpkin soup and four ramekins of pumpkin custard. You'll notice that I am calling it a pumpkin -- we added some food coloring until it was more a robust orange than a pale yellow. Whatever it was before, it's a pumpkin now.
What is mincemeat, actually? someone asked, and there was a chorus of "Eeuws!" when I explained about tiny pieces of ground-up meat and suet mixed with wine, dried fruits and maybe a bit of honey in medieval times. People didn't like to waste food, I said, and went on to admit that modern mincemeat is usually meatless.
Are you making a turkey? I asked Rosie in California. I could hear the baby in the background; she's a squealer, that little one. Yes, she was. And she's trying a new green bean dish. A new pie, not one of our old standbys. A cheating pie, she said. It has a graham cracker crust. But I have to do the whole meal myself.
Sometimes you just have to cheat a little, I said, thinking of the tinted pumpkin pies. Sometimes you just have to make do. The main thing is that we find a place in which to be thankful for what we have, whatever it is. However different it may be from what we used to have. Or even what we wish we had. It is what it is, and we're all still here.
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