Many Words on Pumpkin Pie

(Spiceless) Browned Butter Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepitas

pie and whipped cream

My pie: pumpkin. My topping: sweetened whipped cream. My weapon: fork.

Lacking much of a sweet tooth, I don’t really know where my love of baking came from. Right now, my work and this blog reflect an appreciation for science and mathematics, for deep thought, for art, and for movement. But that couldn’t have been the case as I crushed bananas to a pulp for bread while my mom’s hands gripped mine, guiding strokes of the potato masher because I wasn’t yet tall enough or strong enough to operate it myself. That couldn’t have been the case as I decorated gingerbread men and women with globs of sugary royal icing in bold primary colors, spreading them with a butter knife that felt awkward in my hand.

It is most likely that pastry first gripped me at the Thanksgiving table. When November arrives I start getting that feeling in the back of my throat—that saliva-inducing tingly sensation when I think about salty potato-chip-crisp turkey skin and deep, savory gravy; unctuous bacon fat; and earthy roasted potatoes. Of course, I make dessert, exercising my hands and thanking all that’s living for their ability to shape dough that encases fillings that light up faces. But it’s not that apple pie that I crave, even though I love it, or that spice cake, with its creamy frosting that pulls me. I typically crave all things savory.

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Transition

gingered carrots and fennel with orange yogurt sauce

Fennel Fronds
I feel no need to bring in spring with fanfare this year. For me, spring is nothing more than a necessary but damp and awkward passageway of sore throats, watery eyes, and frizzled locks to what I’m waiting for: the real sun and the real heat of summer.

But I will admit that the strain of plucking a single flower, even a bunch, from the roots is far lighter than that of shoveling heavy, damp, packed snow; trekking through untamed city streets; and drying off cold, wet feet. It beats the clenching of knuckles and fists on the steering wheel, as they fight against sheer ice, and thick ice, and black ice, and wipeout-inducing ice. The warm scent of rain wins over that of the stagnant air inside the house. And the excited chirps of birdies back from vacation outweigh the grating sounds of the early morning plow trucks, signaling that is was not a good night.

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Leftovers

brown sugar cheesecake ice cream

with gingersnap “crust”

Gingersnap Ice Cream
Tuesday, New Year’s Day, I plucked the last beaded decoration off my Christmas tree, wishing I could keep it there just one more week, maybe two. Lights were unstrung, the tree went away, and the living room was restored to its normal twinkle-less state. Although I hadn’t slowed down and realized it was actually the holiday season until about a week before Christmas day, I found myself wishing the light would never leave. I’m not a Christmas fanatic. You know the type. That’s not me. But with the tree take-down, I felt myself wishing I were. I felt like I did as a kid going back to school after the December break. Christmas fanatic or not, the holiday is, for me, that little something to look forward to. Because after that, it is winter. Not winter-solstice-technical winter, but the winter you can feel, from skin to bone.

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An Unexpected Treat

cornmeal-ginger swedish apple pie


As I chatted with coworkers about our Thanksgiving plans, I realized that Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. My boss said it best: It’s a time to come together, to share, to break bread, to enjoy–without the gifts, the frills, the sparkles. It’s a day to push innovation aside just a little and cook what comforts, what’s familiar, what’s easy.

I hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year for the first time. Christmas is usually mine. I’ll bring dessert, some sides, some overly pushy (but always sage) advice to Thanksgiving dinner. But this time it was mine. All mine. And considering Thanksgiving was wiped off the calendar for me due to illness last year, I was excited.

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