I dug through the archives to look for my previous Thanksgiving Musings. There have been five to date; this is the sixth. Not once in all those annual feasts have I done much justice to the star of the show. And if you think that’s the turkey, you’d be wrong. We all know it’s the pie.
You see, the turkey is just the opening act. It’s a good one, to be sure, but it’s hardly the main attraction. Kind of like Bobby Womack or Peter Tosh who used to open for the Rolling Stones: competent musicians but hardly memorable names. No; the real star of the Thanksgiving show is the pie and while the bird and the gravy and the stuffing and the mashed potatoes and the cranberries and something green and, in our house anyway, the sauerkraut (my wife’s grandmother was German) are out on stage singing their giblets out, the pie is warming up in the Green Room, getting ready to step out into the spotlight and steal the show.
Which begs the question: what kind of pie? Personally, I don’t think it really matters. Could be apple; could be pumpkin or sweet potato; could be strawberry-rhubarb; could be bourbon pecan; could even be lemon merengue or key lime—anything topped with ice cream or whipped cream will do the trick, although I must admit that apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese is an outlying contender. The point is that just when you think you are completely sated and there’s not another notch on your belt, out comes the pie and you know you’re ready to go down that road all over again. Pie: It’s the finale to the Fourth of July fireworks show, the star atop the Christmas tree, Auld Lang Syne at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In fact, it’s more than all those combined; it’s the exclamation point at the end of Thanksgiving!
Now before all you turkey and fixings lovers take me to task for being nothing more than a pitiful pie booster, consider this: turkey is a relative newcomer to the Thanksgiving game. The ancient Egyptians probably created the first pies, but it was the Greeks who took them to another level by inventing pastry dough. As pies evolved over the centuries, they took on new designs defined by the type of crust employed: now you can enjoy a filled pie (bottom crust only), a top-crust pie (filling under the crust), or the monarch of the pie regime: a lattice two-crust pie (bottom crust, filling, top crust). These days, crusts can still be made from scratch, but your favorite grocery store has some pretty good ready-made options for the last-minute pie-maker, almost indistinguishable from the ones you slave over with your grandmother’s rolling pin.
As for the filling, pies can be savory (think of a pot pie or a steak pie) or sweet (think of a Boston Cream Pie). A sweet pie’s filling can be crafted from a variety of fruit and can include some tasty complements, like nuts or raisins or a tablespoon or two of bourbon or Irish whiskey. (Note to readers: never use a fine Scottish single malt whisky in your pie; some things are meant to be savored all by themselves.)
By now, you must be wondering: what kind of pie does he eat at Thanksgiving? The truth is, I hedge my bets. Like William and Harry, I prefer the heir-and-a-spare solution, the two-is-better-than-one approach. I probably won’t complain at whatever you’re serving (unless it’s a slice of fruitcake which, of course, doesn’t remotely resemble pie), but if pressed, I’ll have one slice of pecan (with vanilla ice cream) and one slice of pumpkin (with home-made whipped cream), please.
And maybe a slice of strawberry-rhubarb for breakfast tomorrow.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.