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