How many of us actually sit down for our Thanksgiving feast and think, "Man, I can't wait to get through the turkey, stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes, so I can dig into that piece of pumpkin pie that's sure to be coming"?
How do I love pie? Let me count the ways. I love an apple pie, all cinnamony with firm apples in a a flaky crust. I love cherry pie made with Michigan cherries if it's not too sweet and too goopy. I love streusel-topped crumb pies because, well, they invariably taste really good unless the streusel-to-fruit ratio is out of whack. Key lime pie, like the really good, not very jiggly ones they make at Steve's in Red Hook, Brooklyn, bring it on, no questions asked. Lemon chess, apple-cranberry, banana cream, coconut cream, coconut custard, lemon chiffon, pecan (as long as the pecan-to-sweet-jellied-goop balance is respected), I love them all.
But pumpkin pie is not a similar object of my affection. I have never been able to fully get behind pumpkin pie. It's not just me, is it? Serious Eaters, I need you to 'fess up here. We've all been merely tolerating the pumpkin pies that have been put in front of us at Thanksgiving forever. Maybe it's time to put an end to the Great Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Sham.
Maybe I've just never had a truly great pumpkin pie. Lord knows I've ordered a large cross-sample of pumpkin pies over the years. I've had pumpkin pies made by some of the country's great pastry chefs and pie bakers, like Karen Barker of the Magnolia Grill in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Some have been custardy rich, others are gorgeously fall-colored, but when I dip my fork into a piece of pumpkin pie, I can't remember ever swooning with delight. A great pie deserves, requires even, a proper swooning reaction.
I don't want any of you to think that I'm a pumpkin pie hater. I'm not. I'm a pumpkin pie tolerater, and I believe if many of you looked into your heart and your stomach, you'd cop to feeling the same way. I would like to hear from as many of you as possible so that I don't feel alone in making this confession.
What am I looking for in making this frank, if not exactly shocking, admission? I would like to make the Thanksgiving meal pumpkin pieoptional. If I could replace the pumpkin pie on my table with a pie of the Key lime persuasion, I would be truly thankful. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about?
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