As Sweet as Pie

Phyllis Schurz

One Thanksgiving I will never forget was held in our townhouse in Minnesota. We had eight people celebrating Thanksgiving that year. Our guests were our son Dave, his wife, and their son, one-year-old Jack. Also attending were my son’s best friend Chad, his wife, and his mother Pat who was living in a nursing home. I wanted this day to be special, as we all knew her health was declining quickly. I overly focused on details, especially the dining table, right out of Better Homes and Gardens, done with gold and cranberry. I knew Pat would appreciate it. I wanted everything to be perfect.

The main part of the dinner with turkey and dressing went off well, and soon it was time for dessert. I gave a little hostess speech, saying, “Okay, everybody, it’s time for dessert and, of course, we have pies. I have pecan pie, cherry pie, German chocolate pie, and the traditional pumpkin pie. And little Jack is having a sugar cookie. Everyone gets their favorite.” Yahoos and cheers followed.

We were about halfway through our dessert when my husband Jim asked for more whipped cream. “How strange,” I thought, “he has never asked for more cream before.” I got the whipped cream for him and ignored him. As a typical new grandmother, my attention was on my little grandson. As people finished their pie, everyone gave me lavish compliments, except for the only other pumpkin pie eater who remarked, “That was interesting,” and pushed his pie plate forward. I still didn’t catch on.

That evening as Jim and I were getting into bed, I said, “I think it all went well, don’t you?” He hesitantly replied, “I didn’t want to say anything during dinner, but I like the old recipe for pumpkin pie better than the new recipe one you served today. But if I put enough whipped cream on it, I could get it down.”

“What—what—old recipe? What is he talking about?” I thought to myself. Then I leaped out of bed with bare feet, and in my nightgown, I ran down the hallway and into the dark kitchen. I threw on a light, wrenched open a drawer, and grabbed the first thing I came to, which was a large serving spoon. I savagely plunged it into the center of the remaining pumpkin pie, and with an orange glob still in my mouth, I screamed, “Oh crap, I forgot the sugar.”

Pecan-Topped Pumpkin Pie

(This is not the traditional recipe used in the story.)


One premade pie crust (I use Pillsbury)

1-1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin

1-1/2 cup half & half or light cream or one 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1-1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare deep-dish pie pastry. Mix pecans and brown sugar in small bowl; place 3/4 cup pecan mixture in bottom of pie shell. Reserve remaining pecan mixture for topping. Combine pumpkin, half & half, granulated sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in large bowl; mix well. Pour into prepared pie shell.

Bake for 50 minutes or until just set in center. Add butter to remaining pecan mixture; stir until moistened. Sprinkle pie filling with pecan mixture; bake for 10 minutes more or until topping bubbles around edges.

Story excerpt and recipe from Food Is Love, written by Phyllis Schurz