Seeing Orange: As in Pumpkin Pie

Since I know you’ve all been wondering (yeah, right) about how the Pumpkin Pie Palooza turned out, I am finally posting the pictures from the event. Yes, I realize it’s been twelve days since my pie stand was open for that final day of the season. And yes, I realize I have posted nothing since then. I also realize time has marched on so far that the sunny Indian Summer days have given way to snow. Alas, since this blog is about pie and documenting my adventures based around “America’s quintessential comfort food” and the Pumpkin Pie Palooza is about as pie-centric of a story as you can get, I figure better late than never.

So there we were, Saturday, October 29, on an unseasonably warm and sunny day…  It was so warm, in fact, we did something Iowa weather doesn’t normally permit: we moved the pie stand outside into the side yard.

I baked all the pies myself this time — all 50 of them. My trusty pie assistant, Dakota McElderry, had returned to high school and given that he wasn’t available for the weekday prep, I found myself alone in the kitchen for the first time in many months. I had forgotten how much I like — even prefer — working solo. With my iPhone earbuds securely in place, my apron tied around my waist, and my rolling pin at the ready, I found my rhythm, the trance-like one that had soothed my broken heart during that first year after Marcus died. I had forgotten how moving quietly, methodically, peacefully around my workspace, dusting my table with flour, rolling out dough, whisking eggs by the bowlful — and not barking orders at Dakota or whoever else was helping with the pie stand — allowed me the space and the time for my thoughts to wander, my ideas to flow, my nerves to calm. It was luxurious. And it reminded me of how much I still love making pie. A lot of pie.

And then, after two and a half days of baking, the pies all made and set out for display, it was show time.

Shirley Stacey, Eldon’s ace mayor (who was THANKFULLY  just re-elected
 for another term!) was one of my first customers of the day.

Seeing it was a Halloween-based event, I took the time to create a makeshift costume. What better fitting attire for the Pitchfork Pie Stand than a…why yes, a costume that revolves around a pitchfork. I got the devil horns and matching tail for a dollar each at the Dollar Store. Can’t beat that!

The ever-helpful Dakota McElderry

Seeing it was a Saturday — a school-free day — Dakota was able to work at the pie stand. He borrowed my bottle of fake blood to fashion a little beard for himself — as his costume. He also crafted a “scary” prop out of a pie box and stuck it on the end of a pitchfork. Which I thought was very clever.

We did not, however, send home customer pies in blood-covered boxes.

My costume had some competition from a toddler. I couldn’t help but think of one of those celebrity magazines with the red carpet photos of actresses caught wearing the same dress (oh, the horror!), you know that photo-driven column, “Who Wore it Better.” In this case, I’m sure the little guy would have won. Especially with the devilish mustache, beard and eyebrows drawn on his face. Why didn’t I think of that?!

Costumes and decorations aside, it was still the pies — pumpkin, apple and apple crumble — that were the showcase of the day.

I had a surprise visit from a woman who goes to the same college I attended — The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. A long way from (her) home, Sarah and her mom (who hails from Iowa) stopped by for a slice of pie and brought me a gift — a vintage pie tin along with a needle-pointed logo of my alma mater, handcrafted by Sarah herself.

Last but not least, my BFF in Eldon, Patti, showed up late in the afternoon — also in costume. She was dressed up as….me! She had the outfit wired, down to the pigtails and overalls (which she had had to borrow for the occasion). I laughed so hard I nearly cried. Should I have been flattered? I mean, she finished off the outfit with a witch’s hat after all. Was she trying to tell me something?

Some of you asked if we had any leftover pie. Yes. A few pumpkin pies were left. And that made me very happy. Why? Because pumpkin pie freezes well, which means that for the past twelve days I’ve been able to have a rare stash on hand and indulge in my favorite food.

Really, I had such a good time with the Pumpkin Pie Palooza I’m wondering if I really can wait until Memorial Day to open up the pie stand again.

Pecan Pie Palooza anyone?

Pumpkin Pie Palooza Kicks Off With…Pumpkins

This was all H’s idea. As for me, after a verrrry long summer of pie slavery, I mean pie baking, I was quite relieved that the Pitchfork Pie Stand was closed for the season. But no. Halloween is H’s favorite holiday. And apparently pumpkin pie is one of his favorite pies, because no sooner did I hang the “Sorry, We’re Closed” sign on my door, H suggested, “Hey, let’s have a Pumpkin Pie Palooza.” Yeah, sure, okay, I replied in my love-struck state.

And so it begins, the preparation for one last pie-making hurrah of 2011. It’s the same routine of the summer — shopping for mass amounts of ingredients, rolling industrial-quantities of dough, boiling over pie filling in the oven clouding my kitchen with smoke — except that it will be condensed into the next three days.

H has been very sweet and supportive about the whole thing though. We kicked off pumpkin pie season a few weeks ago when we went on a local “farm crawl.” The first farm we stopped at was Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch
…where we stocked up on pumpkins that have been adorning the backyard of the American Gothic House ever since. One of the pumpkins even found its way onto the clothesline post — as the head of the scarecrow. Which was also H’s idea. (Seems that spending time in rural Iowa is bringing out his creative side.)

I had my own creative ideas for decorating the backyard (below). After all, October is not only about Halloween, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But I digress…

H also bought me a pumpkin pie sign. It’s adorable. And thoughtful. And reminds what a great guy H is. Not that I need reminding.

But really, H outdid himself today. While I was home getting caught up on work, he went to the grocery store —Aldi, of course — and bought all the remaining ingredients I needed to get started. He sent me this photo from the parking lot:

And now…it’s my turn to step in. Tonight I’ll be making dough. Tomorrow I’ll be rolling it. Friday I’ll mix gallons of pumpkin custard and peel 60 pounds of apples, since we’ll also offer apple pie. And on Saturday, I’ll get up early to bake. And bake. And bake.

And finally, this Saturday from 12 to 4, we’ll have pie for sale at the Pitchfork Pie Stand. We won’t be open again until Memorial Day — I swear — so please come by for this Saturday’s one-day event. The weather report is for 60 degrees and sun so we’ll set up the pie stand outside in the yard. And even though I occasionally grumble about what hard work it is to run a pie stand, I’m really looking forward to a crispy fall day with the cinnamon scent of pie permeating the air. And not to just selling pie, but to eating some too!

Meanwhile, since so many of you come to my blog looking for recipes, let me fill you in on my “secret recipe” pumpkin pie. It’s straight off the Libby’s canned pumpkin label. Uh, yeah. There you have it. Hardly a secret. It’s tried and true, it doesn’t call for nutmeg (which I abhor for its overpowering taste), and — always a prerequisite for me — it’s easy.

Happy Halloween, everyone. And Happy Pumpkin Pie season.

PUMPKIN PIE RECIPE (From the Libby’s label)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) canned pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.