The Thanksgiving Pie That Wasn’t

The Community Chronicle, November 2019

I have always been known as the baker in the family. Bread from scratch, cookies, pies, muffins, scones, you get the idea. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when my brother asked me to bake two pumpkin pies for the family Thanksgiving taking place at his house. Pumpkin pie I could make blindfolded.

Leading up to the holiday I baked and pureed a pumpkin, and stocked everything I’d need to make a nice, flaky crust and the filling. I was set for pie making the morning of the big day. Then something happened. The flu swept in and grounded me like a tornado that picked up a house and dropped it willy-nilly where it pleased. I was one sick puppy.  

Thanksgiving morning, I dragged myself out of bed and pulled together the filling. That small effort was all I could manage. Never mind trying to make a pie crust; my head was spinning and I could barely stand vertically. I sent hubby to a grocery store that was open for pre-made pie dough; I went back to bed. When he returned, I slogged to the kitchen and made two pies. Because they looked pretty decent, I didn’t bother to taste the filling. As I said, I can make a pumpkin pie blindfolded. We drove to my brother’s house and we set the pies on the counter. Everyone remarked on how good they looked and asked why I looked like something the dog found half-dead in the canyon. I brushed off their concern, even though all I wanted to do was lay down.  I made it through the meal, though I didn’t eat much. Finally, it was pie time.

My sister-in-law brought out the pies and cut slices for everyone. The look of anticipation etched on everyone’s faces was the biggest compliment I could ever ask for. It was a true affirmation of my baking skills. Everyone dug into their slices and no sooner did they take their first bites than they put down their forks and looked away. A few people spit out the first bite. I was horrified.

“Uh, did you forget to put sugar in the pie?” my brother asked.

“Sugar? Yeah, I’m sure I did,” I answered feebly.

“No, I think you forgot,” he said as everyone around the table nodded in agreement.

I took a bite. I detected nothing unusual because the flu had pretty much wiped out my taste buds. Everyone stared at me to get my reaction.

“I can’t really taste anything,” I said. “Is it that bad?” Everyone nodded. I was devastated. I could feel my baking crown sliding off my head.

“Well, no point in wasting good pie,” my brother said and got up from the table to walk into the kitchen. He returned with the sugar bowl and a spoon. He scooped up two or three hefty spoonfuls of sugar and poured them over his slice of pie, then used his fork to mash it into the pie filling. He took a big bite and smiled.

“It’s fine now,” he said in between bites, smiling like nothing was wrong. He looked around the table and encouraged everyone to pour sugar on their pie slices, but no one did. He was the only person who ate a slice of that pie. Even though he couldn’t convince anyone else to try his remedy, at that moment he was my hero.

After the meal, hubby and I went home as I was in no condition to stay any longer. I asked him if the pie was really awful.

“Well, let’s just say that you shouldn’t try to make a pie or anything else when you’re sick.”

I knew he was right but at that moment the only thing I cared about was getting back in my sickbed.

I’ve made many Thanksgiving pies since that long-ago holiday and have never repeated the mistake of leaving out a key ingredient. Looking back, I can’t believe that I left out the sugar. I mean, who leaves sugar out of a pie, even in the throes of the flu? Embarrassing as it was, I learned one hard lesson that day: don’t bake anything when I’m sick. Bad combo, the perfect culinary storm bound for disaster. Fortunately, all has been forgiven and once again I proudly wear the family’s baking crown.