One particularly somber day a couple of weeks ago, when my shoulders felt heavy with invisible burdens and my heart tender to the touch, I put on a movie for the kids down in the basement while I escaped upstairs to the quiet of my mother-in-law’s kitchen and assembled a variety of tools around me: a vegetable peeler, a large knife, a cutting board, two metal pots, and a piece of cheesecloth. I laid a neck pumpkin with its awkward posture, upon the cutting board and began to peel the smooth milky orange skin from its body in long, thin strips while Christmas music mingled in soothing notes around me. For the first time in weeks I felt light and happy.
I peeled, I chopped, and I simmered. Bending over a steaming sieve nestled in the sink, I squeezed the hot pumpkin flesh wrapped in cheesecloth, till my hands ached, and smiling, I audibly rejoiced with each drop of liquid escaping through the cotton mesh. And soon I discovered that for the past hour, I had managed to deal tangibly with emotions I hadn’t been able to grasp up until that moment.
For the past month I’ve fought with the frustration of my incapability to put words to the hurt and sadness I’ve felt recently. I’m a woman of words; I love crafting them, massaging them, ordering them to do my bidding. But suddenly I’m without words when I so desperately wish I had them. They have always been such a comfort to me. And just as I was beginning to resign myself to comfortlessness, God reminded me that He is a God of comfort. And He’s a God of generosity. I didn’t need to constrict my healing to the realm of words; I could find it elsewhere if I allowed Him to show me, if I consented to follow where He lead.
And He lead me right into the kitchen.
In case you need to pursue a little “healing” in your own kitchen this Thanksgiving, here’s a wonderfully different take on your traditional pumpkin pie. Enjoy!
Mai’s Maple Pumpkin Gingersnap Pie
½ c. pecan pieces
5 tbsp. butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
2 c. pumpkin (I use fresh but you can certainly substitute with canned pumpkin here. Just make sure it’s 100% pure pumpkin.)
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. maple syrup (Sorry, folks, no substituting with Aunt Jemima’s here. You need the real deal. I know it’s pricey, but it is oh-so-worth-it.)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I don’t put as much spice in this pie as a regular pumpkin pie because you have so many spices coming through with the crust. You don’t want to overpower your palate. Besides, any more spice in this pie and you are practically begging for heartburn.)
½ tsp. kosher salt
For the crust, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the gingersnaps and pecans in a food processor, pulsing the contents till them reach a crumbly consistency. Add the melted butter and salt, pulse a couple times till the crumbs begin to stick together, and then dump the mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie pan (I’ve used a regular 9-inch pan before and it worked fine; you’ll just have some crumb mixture and filling mixture left over, which isn’t all bad because crushed gingersnaps mixed with pecans and butter are really best enjoyed with a big ole’ spoon). Press crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Set aside.
For the filling, bump the heat on the oven up to 350 degrees. After that, simply mix all the filling ingredients together in a large bowl. You can get out your mixer if you feel so inclined, but if you don’t mind a little arm workout, a whisk and some elbow grease will work just fine, as long as everything gets mixed together well. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. At this point, I like to make a little “crust shield” out of aluminum foil to protect the crust from getting too brown. You can actually buy these things at those fun gadgety kitchen stores, but I take the cheap route and just cover the edge of the pan with folded and bent pieces of foil. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 60 minutes, or until filling is set.