Monday, November 28, 2016


Last Thursday, we in the US celebrated Thanksgiving Day, and besides fixing turkey, my personal tradition includes baking a mincemeat pie. I do as my mother did and buy a jar of filling rather than make it from scratch, but pop it into a pie crust I've made using my mother's recipe. She actually didn't have a crust recipe, just threw the ingredients in amounts that looked right into a bowl and added water to mix until it was the consistency she wanted. But when I married and realized I didn't know how to make a pie, I begged her please to translate that into a written recipe for me. She did her best, pouring flour into the bowl, then measuring and recording the amount, and paying closer attention to how much of the other ingredients she was adding (just salt, shortening and water). She warned me that Crisco shortening would not produce the best, flakiest crusts like lard would, but would be an ok substitute. She also warned about working the dough too much before rolling it out - too much handling would make the crust tough. She was right on all counts.

But isn't pumpkin the traditional Thanksgiving pie, I hear you ask? Yes it is, and my mother made it too for our family feast. And I always ate some of each, although I was never that keen on the pumpkin, preferring the mincemeat instead. Every year I'd do the same, why I'm not sure, maybe tradition having something to do with it, or following along with what everyone else was eating. If everyone else liked it so much, then it must be good, right? I was well into adulthood before I took my last bite of pumpkin pie and admitted, I just didn't care for it.

Here's the funny thing though. I'd been doing the same as my mother, fixing both kinds of pie each Thanksgiving, and my husband and I were eating both kinds without complaining before I had my little epiphany. My husband looked at me and said, You don't like pumpkin? I love pumpkin but really don't like mincemeat pie. Really! Why had neither of us admitted this for the many years we were married? Tradition and a little of not wanting to hurt the other's feelings I think. We both gave each pie one more try the next year, just one bite, looked at each other, shook our heads no, and never again touched the pie we really didn't care for.

And since that day of swearing off pumpkin pie, I realized it wasn't just the pie I didn't like, which I'd decided was because of its sort of custard base and I don't care for custard. I just didn't like the taste of pumpkin regardless of what it was in. Now I was free from trying to like pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin-spice lattes! There's so much good food out there I DO like, I hardly need to consume things I am at best lukewarm about.

So if you are an all things pumpkin lover, by all means, enjoy all things pumpkin. But don't try to convince me how good these things are because they simply aren't to me. Give me mincemeat instead! And so a slice of mincemeat pie has been added to my comforts sketchbook, using the fountain pen with the brown ink, which seemed very appropriate. The pen worked really well on this paper, and I used a little trick I saw on-line of turning the pen over essentially using the back side of the nib in order to draw narrower lines on some of the shading and texturing. I'm getting pretty comfortable with this pen now, and I'm wondering why it was giving me so much trouble initially.

I also had a thought of an advantage of drawing food. No matter how good or badly the sketch turns out, you can always enjoy eating the subject matter afterwards!


Living to work - working to live said...

Well! There's me all educated. I did not know that traditionally you had pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, I knew about the Turkey, but not the pie. I like pumpkin, as in I like it as a vegetable, but confess I've never had it in sweetened form.

Here, mincemeat is traditional for Christmas. Now, if truth be told I'm not a fan of mincemeat. In the run-up to Christmas there are mince pies everywhere. These mince pies will be small single portion events. The pastry is usually sweet. I think they are too acidic and am really not a fan at all.

So if turkey is your traditional Thanksgiving dinner what is your traditional Christmas dinner? Do you do the turkey thing all over again or do you have something different at Christmas?

Chris said...

Boy not a lot of people like mincemeat pie. My husband really really likes it. I like it, but try not to eat much since it has a ton of calories. I am guessing that you also like fruitcake? I have found that people that hate fruitcake also hate mincemeat. I like pumpkin, but think we have gotten too carried away with it. Seems like it is pumpkin everything these days...pumpkin candy corn, pumpkin latte....yuck.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Hilary, my mom just did the whole Thanksgiving Day menu for Christmas Day, but once I left home, I found out that not everyone did that. I think a lot of people go for a standing rib roast at Christmas. And some have Christmas Eve dinner traditions like my husband's aunt who fixed oyster stew. My husband who often pushed against convention, declared that, once we were not trekking to some relatives house for Christmas but enjoying the day at home just the two of us, he would start fixing unconventional dinners for Christmas. One year it might be a batch of his famous lasagna, the next might be something with the deer he bagged that fall. It was fun seeing the expression on people's faces when they innocently asked what we'd had and our response was so atypical. As for now, I just wing it, certainly not doing the turkey thing again as I will still have plenty of leftover turkey in the freezer. Taking the late husband's lead, fixing what strikes my fancy, sometimes as simple as cheese, summer sausage and crackers or a good bread.

I won't try to convince you about mincemeat, although I'm wondering if what you get over in Blighty is different from what we get here in the states. I don't think of my mincemeat as acidic at all (although I was looking for that as I ate my piece today and you may be right). I always liked my mother's raisin pie, and the mincemeat just felt like an enhanced version. As for eating pumpkin as a vegetable, I'm guessing few people over here do that. I know I've never had it that way. It seems to only be used in sweets, or what we think of as pumpkin spices added to beverages. As Chris said, people have gone a bit overboard with the pumpkin thing over here, putting it in darn near everything, including scented candles, and you already know I agree with her assessment of that!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Chris, funny you should mention the fruitcake. I've never liked commercial fruitcake and only found the homemade ones slightly more palatable. But it was on my mind as I scrutinized each bite of pie today and noted that some of the fruit ingredients in the mincemeat are probably also in fruitcake. I think its the density of fruitcake I don't like, along with the chunks of candied fruit.

Wish you hadn't mentioned that mincemeat pie has a lot of calories! I never checked the jar - I'm guessing it would have told me - but any pie will be more calories than I should add right now. So a slice of pie becomes my lunch, nothing else, and I salve my nutritional conscience by topping it with honey flavored Greek yogurt instead of icecream or whipped cream. Stretching the "serving of fruit, serving of dairy" guidelines I adhere to for lunch! ;-)