A Heavenly Slice of Tradition

A Thanksgiving dinner is never complete without pie; they are practically as revered as the main turkey itself! The promise of these desserts at the end of the big meal compels guests to find their second (or fourth) wind before satiety kicks in. I chose to take full advantage of this tradition, and made not one, not two, but three pies! If you recall from my previous post, I had 15 friends over for dinner, so my ambition to bake this many wasn’t too far-fetched. So for this post, It is only all too appropriate to start with a classic: Maple Pumpkin Pie.
Pumpkins, native to North America, were central to the lifestyles of the Native Americans, providing both nutritional sustenance as well as raw materials for everyday items (hollowed vessels, floor mats, etc). When the colonists first arrived, they quickly adopted this readily available squash to their own diets. Over time, they began to add milk and honey in an effort to enhance its flavor (a precedent to the beloved classic). Yet it was French chef Francoise Pierre la Varrene (once pumpkin began to be exported abroad) who created the first pumpkin custard with a pastry crust. The recipe was then sent to England, and subsequently back to the Americas.
This pie uses a fresh pumpkin rather than the canned variety. Though the latter is easily substituted, I highly recommend sticking with fresh – it gives the custard a pure taste that adds a new depth to this classic. It also uses maple syrup as a sweetener, giving this pie a more authentic sweet (rather than using an absurd amount of processed sugar). The funny thing with this pie (and the pie below) was that I accidentally purchased whole wheat pastry flour (a lighter alternative to whole wheat flour) for the crusts. It gave these pies more of a “harvest” appeal, yet still managed to create a beautifully flaky crust. That being said, I’d probably go for the plain ol’ pastry flour next time – click HERE to see the recipe for this Thanksgiving classic!
This second pie we all know and love – the beloved Pecan Pie. Though rumor holds this pie as a creation of French settlers introduced to the pecan by Native Americans while in New Orleans, the earliest record of this pie only dates back to the (very) late 19th century.  Karo® Syrup, founded in 1902, popularized the recipe in an effort to promote its product. Almost all recipes in practice today rely on the syrup (preferably Karo), with some establishments in the South even naming this dish the “Karo Pie.”
This recipe definitely makes one heck of a pie – it is from the Pioneer Woman, and she claims it is a “Pie that Will Make You Cry.” Fortunately, none of my guests were in tears while eating this, but there was a wave of silence during the dessert course (a good sign, I take it). Most pies use halved pecans, but this recipe calls for chopped nuts. I now prefer this method as it creates a beautifully even topping that still looks stunning, without all the hassle. Click HERE to see how to make this fabulous holiday pie!
I’ve saved the best for last (yet pictured it first as a teaser) – Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie. Granted, this is not a “Thanksgiving tradition,” but this is an extraordinary pie! A buttery graham cracker crust filled with a creamy, peanut butter mousse atop a rich layer of dark chocolate ganache – just typing that makes my mouth water. The combination of the dark chocolate with the whipped peanut butter results in a decadent yet refreshing taste that is all-too irresistible (my friend TJ swears it tasted like mint, hence the inclusion of “refreshing” – even though there is NO mint in this recipe, I’ll let you be the judge on this).  I can guarantee this pie will quickly become a Thanksgiving tradition for you and your family – click HERE to see how to make this mouth-watering pie!
For the musical pairing, I thought it only appropriate to go with an American composer: Charles Ives. As I’ve shared before on this blog, his music was the first of American composers to achieve international renown. Wanting a work that was ambitious yet not overly so, I chose his Symphony No. 2. Though his music is filled with experimental techniques, such as polytonality and tone clusters, he weaves recognizable themes throughout his works as musical quotations. His most discernible quotations are famous American folk songs, taking inspiration from his father’s work as an Army bandleader. I thought this work would especially be appropriate given its diversity of cultural quotations: Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms are all cited along with folk melodies. These pies, though arguably an American tradition, find origins in a number of cultures, from Native American staples to French pâtisseries. It’s also worth mentioning I performed this work with my roomie sitting next to me as first oboe! – enjoy!


Sources Cited:
“This History of Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Pie.” Gourmet.com
“Pie & Pastry,” FoodTimeline.com
“Symphony No. 2: Notes,” A Charles Ives Website

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