This healthy and creamy pie feels luxurious, is simple to prepare, and always steals the show at a holiday dinner.
Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays. As a kid, I loved nothing more than being in the kitchen while my grandmother whipped up her standards for the day's feast. She was a loving teacher and I learned by watching her combine ingredients, taste, add and taste again until perfection was upon our plates.
A Recipe for Love
A meal prepared by her was truly a meal prepared for your pleasure as hers.
My grandmother was of Polish descent and the lion's share of her recipes were Polish or German in origin. She was given the name Wanda at birth but those who loved her employed numerous handles of affection, Chuchi (Polish for aunt) , Chuchi-Wan, Schatzi (German for sweetheart), and my personal favorite...Gram-cracker. Gram-cracker was the name I called her when I was feeling playful but generally she was just Grandma to me.
Her nurturing soul lead her in everything she did, especially in the kitchen. The days leading up to the holidays promised perogi, drop noodles, cookies, kruschicki, cakes, and pies. I remember being fascinated with the sheer volume of fruit cakes wrapped in cheese cloth, lovingly bathed in rum over a period of what seemed like months to my childhood awareness. She danced a magickal (the k is intentional, give it a goog) dance in the kitchen and it was a joy to be a part of.
My grandma always told me she was a witch and I know now her magick was conjured in the kitchen. Her spells were cast through creative interpretation and vision, and they were always curated with nurturing good intention. She lived to serve others. She gave beyond her means and wanted nothing but gracious receipt in return. A meal prepared by her was truly a meal prepared for your pleasure as hers.
A Handwritten Hug
When it was time to create my own holiday dinners I asked my sweet grandma, for her recipes. She eagerly pulled out a massive photograph album circa 1980, complete with sticky cardboard pages nested between a plastic, protective outer layer. Rather than photos, the binder was filled with clippings from this recipe or that, no order or reason, just page after page of clippings with the odd handwritten recipe here or there. There was however, a catch...none of these recipes were really the recipes she used. They were recipes to inspire her recipes. The actual recipes were in her head, interpreted cumulations from a myriad of inspiration.
Before my grandma passed, she painstakingly hand wrote her most loved recipes, on my behalf, and placed them in a slightly updated photo album with premade slots. Measurements and times were rounded and estimated, sometimes requiring great feats of calculation to interpret later.
My favorite is 2/3 cup of butter. What? Who measures butter like that? If you're interested, that is exactly 10.66672 tablespoons of butter. Many of the recipes are rated as "good" or "very good", just below the title. The scale used for this rating system will forever remain a mystery but it clearly communicates her love of one over another. Also of comic value, the recipes were all placed in the album upside down. I left them that way because it is just exactly the kind of thing that makes me feel close to her when I reach for that binder.
Learning the Trade
I cherry pick the bits of a recipe that bring forth the essence of its original flavor profile.
Over the years, I've made virtually every recipe in that album and it has been no small learning curve. With a revised nutritional perspective, I've adapted many of the recipes to meet my existing desire for optimal health. This Creamy Pumpkin Pie is one of those adaptations. It is an amalgamation of her Pumpkin Pie (no rating) and Cream Cheese Cake (good), both of which were holiday favorites.
Much like my grandmother, I now cherry pick the bits of a recipe that bring forth the essence of its original flavor profile and use them in tandem with ingredients that suit my personal nutritional preferences. Its the basis for my Primal Recipe Reboot. Some recipes lend themselves to this process better than others but it sure is fun to figure it out along the way.
This holiday season, dig into your cupboard and pull out some of your family favorites. Make them your own by injecting some of your favorite accents or modify them to suit a revised way of eating. Be creative and let unbridled inspiration lead the way.
If my childhood love was divided in pie slices, my gram-cracker would get the biggest serving. She was true North and I always felt safe and seen in her presence. Thank you for letting me share a slice of her with you.