There is a bright golden haze on the meadow. There’s a change in the air—a crispness. A clean ocean smell replete with a saltiness you can taste on the tongue. The morning air is colder. Outside, you shiver. Autumn has arrived.
Perhaps you have grown a small garden in the backyard. Out the backdoor, you cross the cut grass. A frost lays on the green surface and shimmers like soft glitter in the first morning light. The squash have grown well this season, better than the tomatoes. On small mounds of black dirt, three orange pumpkins catch your attention. You might think of Thanksgiving. You certainly think of pie.
My wife, a pie baker extraordinaire, likes a sweet pumpkin, sometimes called a sugar pumpkin. If you don’t have a garden — we didn’t for years — here’s an alternative: Drive north. There is a pumpkin farm in Brady, Washington, near Elma, called the Chapman Farms. The ground is fertile there, the heat of summer more penetrating. It’s a great place to bring the whole family, complete with a pumpkin patch, washing station and corn maze. When we get home with our harvest bounty, my wife, Laurie, is all business.
The pilgrims were saved from starvation that first winter in 1620 by Native people. The Wampanoag brought them pumpkins. There were no pie shells, so the English hollowed out the bright orbs and boiled them. They saved the seeds.
The inner flesh was sweet and rich and sustaining. They added sugar and milk and ate with relish. A year later they applauded their survival, and that sacred moment became a thanksgiving. It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday.
Now, we should celebrate. Celebrate our forefathers and the First Peoples who saved them. Celebrate our diversity and our natural abundance. Let’s make a pie.