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Roadkill pumpkin pie

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“Baker in training” says my daughter’s apron on this day of making pumpkin pie.

Maybe it’s because my mother is such an excellent cook that we tease her relentlessly about her dubious specialty, fresh pumpkin pie. “Is this roadkill again?” someone is bound to ask when dessert is served this Thanksgiving.

Once —  mind you, ONCE — my mother salvaged a pumpkin thrown into the street, cooked it, mashed it and baked it into a pie.

This was when I was a teenager, that time in life when I knew very little about the behind-the-scenes preparation of the food I ate, nor cared. Garden, can, ho-hum, it was all the same to me. My mom could have kept the pumpkin’s origin her own little secret. Hmm. I wonder … why did she tell us? Was she proud of her resourcefulness? How did she so badly miscalculate the comical effect on her family?  We’ve never let her hear the end of it.

Homemade pies have come and gone over the years. When my husband joined the family the story took on new life. “Ah, roadkill pumpkin pie,” he coined, and we laughed, a bit in disgust, because we wished we had thought of it first. That session my mom produced new details in justification. It was an errand to drop off my brother somewhere, you see, and when she took the same route home mere minutes later, she spied the newly shattered pumpkin. It hadn’t been there before. Thus she established that the pumpkin was as good and fresh as if she had carved it herself, right? 

When I learned my mother shared roadkill standards with National Public Radio contributor Bailey White, I about burst a gasket. Her mother is also an excellent cook, but White refuses to eat unless her mom can provide the model and license plate number of the striking vehicle. (See White’s fabulous book, Mama Makes Up Her Mind.) Delicious!

This Thanksgiving I wish all of you chances to create new stories, and to be with those whose love is strong enough to laugh alongside you at the old ones.

Do you have a crazy Thanksgiving food story?

Pumpkin pie (or winter squash)

1 1/4 cup fresh pumpkin or winter squash (butternut, banana, etc.) cooked and pureed*
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pastry for 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust.

Let pumpkin sit in sieve over a bowl while you gather other ingredients, to draw out extra water. Combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices and flour in mixing bowl. Add eggs and mix well. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; mix well. Pour into pastry lined pan. Bake in preheated 425 oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 45 minutes longer or until set.

*To cook pumpkin or squash, cut into pieces, remove strings and seeds, and prepare one of three ways: microwave (20 minutes, to start), 350-degree oven (about an hour), or in slower cooker (four hours or more, but the beauty is you can stack pieces and walk away). When flesh yields easily to a fork it is done. To puree, use potato masher or mixer, or run through a food mill.


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