In my mother’s kitchen, there was always a gallon jug of Aloha Shoyu and a 100 lb. bag of calrose rice in the cupboard; garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds and green onions in the fridge, and papayas and bananas on the counter.
The middle child of 12 and second oldest daughter, Margaret was known in the family for her good Korean food, a style of cooking she learned from her mother and continued to develop through decades of practice. She never used written recipes for the Korean dishes, magically turning out batches of kimchi and other banchan, platters of bulgogi, kalbi, jap chae, shrimp and vegetable jhun, and bowls of mandu with the studied efficiency and honed techniques of a master chef.
Though she had a hutch full of English bone china, I think she valued most the set of stainless steel pots and pans she once purchased from a door-to-door salesman when I was 9 or 10. “Don’t ever give these away when I’m gone,” she reminded my brother and me repeatedly. “They don’t make cookware like this anymore.” She was right of course. Those pieces served her well for over 50 years and thousands of meals.
Okay Okay. I KNOW I’ve been a tad indecisive lately, asking you to call me Melon Head, then Apple Dumpling, and last week, Apple Pudding.
And not for a second would I presume to be as adorable as little bossy lady Lucy up there who without a doubt personifies the term of endearment, “Pumpkin,” like no one else.
I am now a Pumpkin Girl, having braved the chilly winds and hoodie-cladded throngs of wriggly, hyper-adenoidal munchkins with their parental units who led the charge at Cox Pumpkin Farm this past weekend.
Oh, so brave! Are you impressed by the sacrifice? All just for you, natch.
Today we celebrate the joy that is pumpkinness with an iconic poem and some pumpkin pie. Are you wearing your orange bib? I notice you have on your Halloween mask again. That’s good too.
Often shared at Thanksgiving, this is an interesting poem because of Whittier’s reference to pumpkin carving in his boyhood, which suggests the practice predated widespread Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1840’s (hat tip to American Scrapbook for that tidbit).
As you probably know, the Irish had the most influence on the celebration of Halloween (they used to carve out turnips to light the way on their midnight Autumn ramblings). In America they simply substituted pumpkins since they were so plentiful.
Whittier’s tribute to the pumpkin first appeared in the Boston Chronotype in 1846, and I must say I do like his mention of pumpkin pie!
They’re a bit mad for giant savory pies in Denby Dale. Well, way more than a bit.
Every generation or so, the good folk in this picturesque West Yorkshire village decide to celebrate a notable event in the nation’s history by baking a monster meat and potatoes pie capable of feeding tens of thousands. Yes, you heard right. Tens of thousands.
And they’ve been at it for over 200 years! Thus far, they’ve baked 10 pies for 9 pie festivals (two pies were made in 1887 because the first went rancid).
This gravy guzzling Northern England tradition began in 1788, when they thought a BIG BIG BIG PIE would be a fine way to celebrate King George III’s recovery from mental illness. The most recent Millenium Pie filled 22,000+ rumbling tummies (a 12 ton whopper at 40 ft. long x 9 ft. wide x 3.5 ft. deep). It was the biggest yet; part of the fun, you see, is to make bigger and bigger pies each time. Where’s my fork?
“Making pie, I love the hunger and delight of the hands. You don’t have to touch cake, but you have to touch pie.” ~ Kate Lebo
Sometimes you just gotta have pie.
That’s why I was positively giddy when I chanced upon Kate Lebo’s prose poem, “Lemon Meringue,” in the Summer 2013 issue of Gastronomica.
Kate’s been on my foodie radar for a couple of years now; I first saw her drool-inducing double crust fruit pies at Cakespy.com, and earlier this year, Susan Rich shared Kate’s “Chocolate Cream Pie” at The Alchemist’s Kitchen.
Seeing “Lemon Meringue” made me want to find out more about this Seattle-based poet who loves shaping dough as much as crimping a good line of verse.
#9 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.
Poetry is the home for all my yearnings each poem a separate room where wandering words find a cool bed, a bowl of soup
where names of trees and cities and people I know who want to know knock on doors, ring bells, invite me in for coffee and a rhyme
~ from “Homeroom” by Kathi Appelt (Poems from Homeroom: A Writer’s Place to Start, Henry Holt, 2002).
I’m thrilled and honored to welcome multiple award-winning poet and author Kathi Appelt to our Potluck today. As you can see by the opening stanzas of “Homeroom,” Kathi is a poet after my own heart.
A good poem makes us feel as though we’ve come home — to our own doubts, sorrows, joys, fears, wonder, gratitude. There is nothing quite like a room of carefully arranged words that invites you in for a quick visit, only to inhabit your soul forever.
I love the poem Kathi’s brought today, not only because it’s about pie — but because of its transcendent beauty. It speaks of that quiet inner space where love, memory, and longing converge. How would you build a room strong yet gentle enough to hold a fleeting moment in time? This poem is a flutter in the heart, a sweet reflection hovering in our imaginations.
Kathi: I adored my husband’s grandmother, Emma. She was a wonderful cook, and her pecan pies were a staple of our holidays. Right after we were married, she wrote down her recipe for me, and I’ve had it ever since. Several years after she passed away, at the age of 96, I found myself baking her pies for Thanksgiving. Seeing her handwriting, with the faded ink, made me want to “toast” her in the best way I knew — with a poem.
Emma was my grandmother too, tied through wedding vows to her youngest grandson my one true love. On her back porch, she held my hands and sang ancient nursery rhymes in German, her very first tongue. The songs, her soft, steady voice, called up hummingbirds hovering just above pots of lantana and marigolds. Now what’s left is a scrap of paper, the whispy blue ink turned brown, her recipe for pecan pie. Each time I fold in the butter, chop the pecans, measure the light brown sugar, same shade as the ink, she holds my hands, hums an old tune about the little girl down the lane. My kitchen heats up.
Next thing I know, there are hummingbirds. A slice of pie, a cup of coffee, a language I don’t know, but still it comes to me. We hover there, our tiny wings, our rapid hearts, our solitary belief in sugar and pecans.
Thanksgiving, 2002 Copyright 2012 Kathi Appelt. All rights reserved.
I can’t even imagine the fall holidays without baking one of Emma’s pecan pies. And whenever I bake one, I feel like Emma is right there in the room with me. It’s a sweet feeling, like I have an angel on my shoulder. I make these pies every year for Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Southern Pecan Pie
1 cup light brown sugar (packed) 1/2 cup granulated white sugar 1 tablespoon flour 2 tablespoons milk 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup butter (stick) melted 1 cup pecans, chopped 1 unbaked pie shell
Mix sugars and flour, beat in thoroughly, eggs, milk, vanilla, butter. Fold in nuts. Pour into pie shell. Bake 40 to 50 minutes in 350 degree oven.
Kathi Appelt is the award-winning author of more than thirty books for children and young adults. Her picture book, MISS LADY BIRD’S WILDFLOWERS: HOW A FIRST LADY CHANGED AMERICA (HarperCollins, 2005) was given the “Growing Good Kids Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.” In 2003 Appelt won the Irma and Simon Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, given by the Bank Street College of Education, for her picture book BUBBA AND BEAU, BEST FRIENDS (Harcourt Brace, 2002). Her memoir, MY FATHER’S SUMMERS (Henry Holt, 2004) won the Paterson Prize for Young Adult Poetry.
Her first novel, THE UNDERNEATH, a haunting story of love and survival in the pine forests of East Texas, has been described by reviewers as a “classic.” It was named a National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, and most recently awarded the PEN USA Literature for Children Award.
Ms. Appelt was presented with the A.C. Greene Award by the Friends of Abilene Public Library, which named her a “Texas Distinguished Author.”
In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Her newest book is KEEPER, published by Atheneum, 2010.
She and her husband Ken live in College Station, TX with four adorable cats, Django, Peach, Hoss and Jazz. They are the parents of two even more adorable sons, Jacob and Cooper, musicians who both play the double bass. For more information, check her website: www.kathiappelt.com.
SURPRISE DOOR PRIZE!
Kathi has generously offered to send one lucky reader an autographed copy of her beautiful picture book, My Father’s House, illustrated by Raul Colon, published by Viking (2007).
For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than 12 noon (EDT) Saturday, April 14, 2012. Winner will be announced on Sunday, April 15th, along with the other door prize winners.