American Pumpkin Pie and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving pumpkin pie with brown sugar and cinnamon whipped cream

As we move from long summer days into cool fall nights, here at the bakery we're getting ready for pumpkin. And lots of it. Pumpkin has increasingly become a staple fall time flavor in the food industry. Just driving around the last few days, we've already seen signs and advertisements for pumpkin flavored coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin breakfast foods, pumpkin spice beer, and of course, pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are one of those foods that are uniquely American. Did you know that the pumpkin is native to North America, and some of the oldest known pumpkin seeds found date back to several thousand years BC? Pumpkins were one of the three core staples of Native American agriculture, the other two being corn and beans. While many folks might think that the first pilgrim Thanksgiving included hot pumpkin pie, it's likely that stewed or filled pumpkin was all that made it to the table that year.

It wasn't until the mid-1600 that "Pompion Pie" begins to show up in recipe books around the world. In 1796, when "American cookery" was published (the first American cookbook) we find the recipe for the modern pumpkin pie.

And as we all know, sixty-seven years later, in the midst of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared the New England tradition of Thanksgiving a National holiday. As the nation mended after the war, the holiday took root in both north and south. For many of you home pumpkin pie bakers, it was in 1929 that Libby's launched their first line of canned pumpkin pie.

So here we find ourselves today, remembering the deep tradition & history that's embodied in our beloved pumpkin pie. We'll end with the full lyrics of a poem we all loved as children, written by the abolitionist Lydia Maria Child:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather's house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather's house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for 'tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, "O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone."
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Jessica Daly