A Tale of Two Pumpkin Pies

I know better than to volunteer to make food to bring to a family gathering. When it comes to holiday parties, I should always stick to volunteering the three Ps (Paper Plates, Paper Napkins, Plastic Forks). That’s why it puzzles me about myself that I would volunteer to bring pumpkin pie to this year’s Easter dinner. And of course, the bakery in the grocery store didn’t have one left!

No problem. How hard could it be? My grandmother used to make a great crust with flour, lard and her little beat-up, round metal bowl. I inherited that bowl, but it hangs on the wall because I didn’t inherit her ability to make a decent pie crust. Not to worry, though, they have them ready-made…all you have to do is roll them out into the pie plate.

I bought a set of the economy pie crusts (because, why spend more than you have to?) and one can of pumpkin. I recently cleaned out my cupboards, so I knew I had the evaporated milk and another can of pumpkin at home.

I got out my pie plates and opened the packages with the crusts. They were full of flour, very dry and apparently rolled and packaged about the time of the third Crusades. I pinched and poked and cursed and blasphemed (a good Crusades word) and managed to lay down a semblance of the crust. Oh well, who eats the crust on a pumpkin pie anyway?

Then I turned to the pumpkin. I needed two cans; I reached into the cupboard for the second can–and I didn’t have one. I was sure I had it, but everything in the cupboard was soup or fruit or pork n beans, none of which would work. I quickly ran back to the store and got a second can of pumpkin. Back to work.

I emptied out the two cans of pumpkin into the bowl (see photo above) and then, I shook the evaporated milk vigorously. I opened the first can and without checking, poured it in. If you refer again to the photo above, you will see the evaporated milk–that orangish brown liquid and the little curds. I checked the bottom of the can. It seems I have been harboring that particular can of evaporated milk since 2018. I looked at the other can: it was much better; I have only had that since 2020 and it looked a lot like it might have had the virus.

Now what? No evaporated milk and no pumpkin. Everything went into the garbage and I went back to the grocery store. The disadvantage to a small town grocery store is they KNOW when you’ve screwed up your cooking project. I had been in there buying pumpkin less than an hour before and now I was back, for the third time today. The stock boy smirked knowingly at me and I refused to ask for help when I had to get down on my knees (something they don’t like to do) and reach to the back of the bottom shelf to get more pumpkin. Then, I went to the evaporated milk aisle. I read the bottom of those cans to make sure that they were not old enough to vote and then for good measure, I got some brown sugar. I had a momentary thought that maybe I didn’t have any. As an added bonus, I also bought some name brand pie crusts. Might as well go whole hog.

I didn’t know the clerk who checked me out and I could tell she was trying to remember if I had been in there shortly before. She studied the cans of pumpkin and then my face. Something about my face must have convinced her not to question it. She rang up my purchases. I inserted my debit card. The machine rejected it. I tried again. It rejected it again. I dug through my coat, my pockets and my purse and came up with enough dollar bills and coins to pay for my food and dragged myself out of there.

Back at home, I tried again to make the pies. The final straw was that the cans of pumpkin that I dumped right into the bowl, did not call for the evaporated milk that I had also dumped in. I had to dig through the garbage to find the recipe that called for evaporated milk. But I was sure to have enough brown sugar, because I bought a bag…which is now being stored with the other three bags I already had.

The pies are in the oven and I’m hoping to be lucky enough not to burn them or drop them, etc. before I get them to Easter dinner. I will probably not tell the story of the creation of these pies until everyone is done eating them and still upright with no digestion issues. But in the future, I’m going to be much smarter and stick with the three Ps.

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