Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Thanksgiving Lady" and the Honored Pumpkin Pie

As the title of this post might suggest, there was indeed a woman behind the promotion of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Her name was Sarah Josepha Hale and you can read the first passage about the "Thanksgiving Lady" now or, you can join in as I share the rest of the article by Mariette Bowles as found in the November 1941 issue of American Cookery Magazine.

The Honored Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving Lady

This is Mrs. Hale's own recipe, no doubt the one by which were made the pies that held the place of honor at the Northwood feast.

Take out the seeds and pare the pumpkin or squash; but in taking out the seeds do not scrape the inside f the pumpkin; the part nearest the seeds is the sweetest; then stew the pumpkin, and strain it through a sieve or colander. To a quart of milk, for a fair pie, three eggs are sufficient. Stir in the stewed pumpkin with your milk and beaten eggs till it is as thick as you can stir round rapidly and easily. If the pie is wanted richer make it thinner and add another egg or two; but even one egg to a quart of milk makes very decent pies. Sweeten with molasses or sugar, add two teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sifted cinnamon and one of powdered ginger, but allspice may be used or any other spice that is preferred. The peel of a lemon grated in gives a pleasant flavor. The more eggs, says one American authority the better the pie. Some put one egg to a gill (4 ounces) of milk. Bake about an hour in deep plates, or shallow dishes, without an upper crust in a warm oven.

Here, too, is her recipe for the equally important chicken pie:
Wash and cut the chicken (it should be young and tender) in pieces and put in a dish; then season it to your taste with salt, pepper, a blade or two of mace, and some nutmeg. When your paste is ready for the chicken, put it in and fill it about two-thirds with water; and several lumps of good sweet butter, and put on the top crust. A pie with one chicken will require from one hour to three-quarters of an hour to bake. If the chickens are old, or at all tough, it is best to parboil the pieces in just sufficient water to cover them; then strain this water and add it to the pie; no other moistening will be required.

Today, chicken pie seems generally to have yielded to a turkey as the most important item of a Thanksgiving menu. The variety of pies served as dessert is now much more limited than it was on the Thanksgiving Day the Romelee family celebrated more than a century ago. There are now few heads of household who can look at a crowded table and say proudly that everything--except spices and salt--came from their own farms.

None of this would have surprised Mrs. Hale. She knew that Northwood pictured a way of American life that even when the book was written was rapidly vanishing into the past. She knew and intended that future readers would smile a bit at the manners it so carefully portrayed. That purpose explains her painstaking attention to the details of the meal.

It does not altogether account for the character of the Squire, however, or for his grace--"the breathings of a good and grateful heart." To understand that, you have to look, as he probably did himself, back to the Pilgrim Fathers. Thanksgiving was their idea originally. It was left to Sarah Josepha Hale to realize that the idea was a good one to pass along to us--one day of every year set aside for us all to feel "good and grateful", and to eat American Pumpkin Pie.

I just can't end this post without including a recipe or two for Pumpkin Pie. Here are a recipe I found in a back issue of Taste of Home Magazine.

Egg Nog Pumpkin Pie

And what would the Thanksgiving Season be without a dash of whimsy? I know some of you have seen this poem before and for that I aplogize. For those of you who have not, here's a Pumpkin Pie recipe in verse form:

Pumpkin Pie
Grandmother Lord was a woman wise
And this is the way she made pumkin pie:
Wash pumpkin and cut it small,
Put into, cook in a kettle tall
So that the bubbles will not pop out
To spatter the stove all round about.
Let it bubble and boil and stew
The livelong day 'till it's brown all through;

Stirring it often, and when its done,
Make it through the colander run.
Take of molasses. half a cup,
And with 3 of pumpkin mix up:
Cup and one-half of sugar white
And salt one-half a teaspoon quite.
Mix these well, stirring does no harm--
Then ginger, cinnamon, butterwarm,
A teaspoon each of the above
To season the pies of the Yankee's love.

Then four fresh eggs and a quart of milk,
Line three round tins with pastry white.
Beat well and stir 'till as fine as silk;
Pour in your filling and bake them quite

A full half hour, 'till they're well done
Then let them cool, and sire and son
And husband and preacher and family friend
Will praise your pumpkin pies no end. 
North Dakota Baptist Women Cookbook

1. Sarah Josepha Hale @ wiki (has both a picture of her and title page of the Northwood book
2. Northwood; a Tale of New England, Volume 1 By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale @ google books
3. Behind Every American Thanksgiving is a Great Woman
Additional resources and recipes can be found in Part One of this post.
1. James Beard's Pumpkin Pie With Candied Ginger


  1. another oddly modern view that Sarah Josepha Hale held is her dislike of servants and her stated admiration for those (like the family depicted in Northwood) that did not have them. The Thanksgiving dinner in that book was served on a buffet, with guests and family members helping themselves. I'm not sure about how they did the clean-up, or how they hauled water and wood -- the chores our electric appliances do for us. She might have meant personal servants.

  2. Thank you for sharing yet another interesting post! Even though we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in my house, it is always interesting to see all the delicious food that grace the table for those who celebrate, especially the turkey and the humble pumpkin pie! This is a nice "tribute" to the Thanksgiving Lady.

  3. I hear a lots about thanksgiving, thanks to hollywood. We dont celebrate thanks giving like the US, but in europe they have a sunday in october which is dedicated to thanks giving, but I dont remember that we had any festivities as such.

    Very interessting post by the way and I d love to try the pumpkin pie recipe. thx louise!

  4. I love pumpkin pudding, although I don't celebrate Thanksgiving. It is such a wonderful American dessert. here, we also make something similar. The Swiss bake pumpkin tarts...



  5. i do not celebrate thanksgiving here but i see many christians and catholics here do. And of lately, i'm seeing recipes all over coming up for the coming thankgiving day. Though no celebration here, i do think it's a very menaingful occasion, that's a fun poem! I must make sure the next time when i scarp the seeds off the pumpkin, i must be careful not to scarp away the flesh nearest to it.

  6. Eggnogg pumpkin pie? The Knight is curious...

  7. What a great post. I've never celebrated thanksgiving apart from a party thrown by a friend of a friend. I didn't like pumpkin pie when I first tried it but have warmed to it now. However, I have never made my own. Perhaps I should give it a go with your recipes!

  8. This has put the Thanksgiving spirit right in me Louise! I was lacking it until now. I can't wait to eat pie, pie and more pie! Thank you Thanksgiving lady!

  9. Very interesting! I'm still drooling over the Eggnogg pumpkin pie!! Sounds like my type of pie!!

  10. I like the sound of eggnog in a pumpkin pie!

  11. Even tho you don't post everyday (the unexhaustables...or whatever I said) YOU do a lot of work! This is not easy, all the research and reading, and then writing.
    I love it...so thank you.
    Have a good day.

  12. Fantastic Louise! I never heard this poem before and it made my day and made me hungry for some pumpkin pie. Thank you. Such a delight to visit you.

  13. Now I'm regretting not planning to bake a pumpkin pie this year! It is one of my favorite kinds of pie. Maybe I'll have to bake a post-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

  14. She's right about the eggs. I've been amazed, that when I have extra pumpkin custard that doesn't fit in the original crust, it cooks up beautifully on its own. Happy Thanksgiving, Louise! Hope its a good one!

  15. Had no idea about Sarah Hale! Fascinating. And what fun to have a pumpkin pie recipe with not only eggnog but pecans! Everything good under one crust. :)
    Happy Thanksgiving, Louise!

    (I love that it's "clean out your refrigerator" month!)

  16. Hi Louise, I did indeed get the cookbook and I am chomping at the bit to give one of the recipes a try. We have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house for almost 30 years now...it is a very big deal for me. I will have to write another post about it but in a nutshell, we worked at my Dad's bakery on Thanksgiving every year from the time I could stand till I was 18 so a traditional Thanksgiving did not really come to me until my then future mother in law made the dinner...to me it was magical and that is why we have been doing it ever since. Have a wonderful holiday.
    ♥, Susan

  17. Wow I just realized I'm reading this on Pumpkin Pie day. Must mean I'm destined to bake soon!

  18. Ah...pies! Sooo American! I'm planning to make two pies for Thanksgiving, but they won't be pumpkin but a rendition of it.

  19. Dear Louise, I just love these recipes. They make me feel comforted the way cooking used to be. I am going to try the Indian Pudding recipe below for my Thanksgiving. It sounds delicious.
    Thank you for visiting. Have a Happy and very Blessed Thanksgiving. Catherine xo

  20. I LOVE the recipe in verse form! Thanks for this. I'm saving it and will use it at a future gathering, or perhaps on the inside of a Thanksgiving card. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Louise!

    P.S. The word verification is "anaping." Yeah, as tired as I am I would love to go "anaping." ;-)

  21. Pumpkin pie is actually second to turkey for me on Thanksgiving day so I appreciated this post very much. I thought the poem was perfect and so descriptive. I hope you know that on this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful for friends like you. Best to you and yours on such a lovely Holiday!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise