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Fated to Pumpkin Pie

Posted: November 26, 2016 - 10:46pm

Thanksgiving dinner assignments from "headquarters" arrived by electronic mail early in the week. The yearly assignment email tethers itself to the same type of suspense as the big present tucked behind the Christmas tree. Just like putting on a happy face when the big gift turns out to be a vacuum cleaner, polite acceptance of one's Thanksgiving dinner assignment demonstrates good upbringing.

Polite acceptance and resignation resemble one another, thank heavens, in the eyes of the matriarch who deals each female family member her Thanksgiving fate. She assigned me to pumpkin pie. I don't like pumpkin pie. Everyone, including the matriarch, knows I hate pumpkin pie.

Last year, the matriarch gave me responsibility for the broccoli casserole. I took my assignment seriously, modifying the recipe to omit the water chestnuts. Their absence resulted in unforeseen scandal. Someone else was awarded domain over the broccoli casserole this go-around.

Each assignment says something about the recipient . It indicates her place in the filial hierarchy, the prevailing opinions about her culinary talents, hopes for outcomes of which she may not be aware, affection, derision, unforgotten flubs of the past. Some females are permitted to bring the same dish every year in perpetuity. I sense their discreet, ladylike gloating. They enjoy opening the email for the pleasure of the surprise of what I will be asked to contribute to the feast.

Questions haunt me. Why have I never been asked to duplicate my squash casserole? Why are people so attached to water chestnuts?

I don't know how I should feel about this pumpkin pie assignment. Nonetheless, I know exactly how I feel about pumpkin pie. I H-A-T-E pumpkin pie.

I have no experience preparing it, so I scoured the Internet for recipes. I found a no-bake version that calls for a graham cracker crust, a block of cream cheese, a can of sweetened condensed milk and a can of pumpkin. If required to work with a can of mushy pumpkin, I'd prefer to use cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk.

When my husband encouraged me to wait and make the pies on-site the day of, I said, "But I don't want anyone to see me making them. I'm not cooking traditional pies."

His eyes widened. "You're not?"

"No," I said, and I told him about the no-bake recipe calling for sweetened condensed milk and a block of cream cheese and a graham cracker crust.

"But it's my dad's favorite pie," he protested. "You have to make traditional pumpkin pie. Remember the water chestnuts."

This assignment I suspected was a set-up. I wondered what message the matriarch disguised in appointing me, the person who detests pumpkin pie the most of anybody in history, to the task of baking it. I wondered if this Thanksgiving was shaping up to be like the Thanksgiving that the matriarch and her sisters tried to muscle me into adding their deceased mother's numerous Christmas sweaters to my wardrobe.

Somehow, without ever wearing a Christmas sweater, I've given them the impression that I'm that kind of girl.

My decline of each and every sweater that year put a preemptive damper on the holiday season. Thus, my distress over baking pumpkin pie hasn't been frivolous. Pulling it off or not could make Thanksgiving or ruin Christmas. On the other hand, getting it right put me at risk for possibly receiving the loathsome pumpkin pie assignment in perpetuity. I'm not keen on irony or Christmas sweaters, but I won't know how the pumpkin pie turned out until the next annual email arrives from "headquarters."

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Lucy Adams is the author of Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run and other books. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email Lucy at lucybgoosey@aol.com.

 

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