No one motivates me like my mother. I actually went to graduate school because my mother has two master’s degrees, and I thought if she had a master’s degree, I should get one too.
I had no real idea at the time of who I was or what I wanted to do with my life, but I figured a master’s can’t be a mistake. Then I still didn’t know what to do, so I kept going to school and got my doctorate.
The night before I took my general exams, I called my mom and I told her I was worried about passing. Most people fail at least one part of the four-part exam, and then they have to take it over before they can move on to their dissertation. That can delay graduation for six months or more, and I only had a fellowship for three years.
My mom reminded me of this financial fact and said I needed to pass. I said, “But what if I don’t?”
“You will,” she said.
And I did. I couldn’t let her down.
Last summer, I told her that G. and I were growing red, French pumpkins that had been common in Paris markets in the 1800s.
“What are you going to do with it?” she asked.
I told her about the Italian cookbook G. bought me that had recipes calling for fresh pumpkin.
“Well, it’s no good for pie,” she said. “I tried once to make a pie with a real pumpkin, and it was a mess.”
That, in case you missed it, was a challenge. Mom said I couldn’t make a pie with my pumpkin. Well, of course I could.
I went searching on the Internet and found directions at Culinate for making a pumpkin puree that could substitute for canned pumpkin. I used that to make pumpkin pie with my mom’s recipe.
My mom, by the way, makes a very fine pumpkin pie _ fine enough that I don’t really like other people’s pumpkin pie. If I have to, I’ll eat it, but I’d really prefer to go home and make my own, which tastes just like my mom’s since I use her recipe.
But, her recipe doesn’t work at all with fresh pumpkin. It has too much liquid, 3/4 cup of milk and 3/4 cup evaporated milk per pie. (Her recipe makes filling for two pies.) With the amount of water still left in the pumpkin puree, the pies were more like custards with crusts, and the filling partially separated with an egg-y layer on the bottom of the pie.
More research was called for. I found several recipes on blogs that I considered trying, but then I got lucky. The New York Times printed a recipe from Claire Fountain in Tivoli, N.Y. She lives on a farm, and the recipe had this note about winter squash:
Ms. Fountain likes Buttercups and orange Hubbards; if you go canned, and she’s definitely not recommending that, use unsweetened pumpkin.
This seemed very promising since the recipe was designed for fresh pumpkin and had very little added moisture, only 1/2 cup of heavy cream. I could see immediately how canned pumpkin wouldn’t work; the pie would be too dry.
I made it. It was excellent. I actually ate a quarter of the pie in one sitting because it was very light _ much, much lighter than pies made with commercially canned pumpkin.
My mom is visiting for Christmas. I am going to make it for her today, and I can’t wait. I hope she’s impressed.