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Thanksgiving pie baked with memories

One definition for the term “to do something from scratch,” is to begin (again) with no advantages or disadvantages, or beginning from nothing. Although this inevitably led me to the positive notion of starting each morning “from scratch” as if it were a fresh opportunity, my original purpose for the inquiry had more to do with practical doings in the kitchen — cooking from scratch.

I come from a family of scratch bakers. When the holidays make their runway approach, I begin to envision pecan pie and butter cookies — putting together something good from my pantry stock. I’m not judging those who choose the easy way out with pre-measured mixes and stamped pie shells, or a ready-made dessert. But part of enjoying the holiday build-up for me is pulling familiar bowls down from the cupboard along with my grandma’s green-handled rolling pin, and crowding the counter with the ingredients for at least one homemade Thanksgiving pie.

Family memories lie at the root of my tradition. Rolling out and shaping the dough is effective therapy — a pleasurable escape from a world that sometimes appears to have lost its marbles. Mom was my example and taught me how to mix the dough gently so it wouldn’t become tough, always smiling and demonstrating how to crimp the edges with her slim fingers. I can picture her delicate wedding ring as she worked the dough. Soon the house would fill with the aromas of spices and our home-grown apples baking inside a crispy, golden crust.

A Thanksgiving pie comes in all flavors, though pumpkin still reigns supreme. This year, Cousin Tom gave me a sweetmeat squash from his garden. It’s the color of a November sky, all covered over with pockmarks and full of promise. My grandma, Goby, preferred them to pumpkins for their sweet, bright flesh. It will put up a fight. To cut one open, I’ll need to locate either Paul Bunyan with his axe or a guillotine, whichever is handiest. But once I hack my way in, a superior pie awaits.

As I go through the familiar motions of measuring flour and salt and cutting in the shortening, butter and ice water, memories of past holidays take shape, helping me gain perspective of all the good things. Just being able to feel thankfulness is worth a celebration. It means my thoughts aren’t preoccupied with entitlement and chasing after the next empty promise.

Good remains today, despite greedy big-box stores attempting to turn our national holiday gray by forcing thousands of employees to leave the turkey and stuffing (and football) for work or risk losing their employment. Thanksgiving has long been regarded as first in the hallowed succession of the special days of the holiday season, and spending one entire day of the year to savor all that I have to smile about seems like an appropriate prelude to Christmas shopping.

I find it interesting that in 1863, smack in the middle of all the chaos and bloodshed that was the Civil War, Abe Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. If President Lincoln could see the value of taking the day off to give thanks during our country’s darkest hour, how can we do otherwise?

It’s no cliché to be thankful for friends, a home and family. This week, I’m enjoying an extra helping of gratitude over a successful surgery for an old friend. It’s interesting, when threatened with possible loss, how I have a new appreciation once people or things are restored. I’m thankful for nearly a year’s worth of writing this column, and for all the dear readers who have supported my efforts.

May your Thanksgiving be anything but gray, may you begin each new day from scratch, and may you enjoy a healthy slice of Thanksgiving pie, with whipped cream.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.