Every family has them. These traditions differ from family to family, and from region to region. For some it's turkey; others, not so much. Particular stuffing recipes. Certain place settings and decor. Gathering at a particular home. The Lions at noon. Backyard football.
Our family's most enduring tradition throughout my lifetime have been the presence of homemade baked goods - pies, pies and more pies. These were originally my maternal grandmother's recipes, and she handed them down to my mother. They'd work on them together. There were usually three or four of the best homemade apple pies you've ever tasted. Pumpkin pies. Cherry pies. Blueberry pies. Lemon meringue.
At some point my grandmother wasn't able to be the pilot on this annual project, then eventually even co-pilot was too much for her. It was then left to my mother, and her sister, to carry on the tradition, and they each did so with relish. These pies would show up miraculously each Thanksgiving, looking like the finest artwork from a bakery commercial, and tasting even better. My mother added, at times, a meringue-topped Key lime pie, and occasionally a banana cream. The treats most identified with Thanksgiving for us were mince squares in a double crust that were irresistable.
As the years passed my mother would continue baking these scrumptious delights from scratch, each year's masterpieces seemingly better than the last. But with the passing of time the question arose - who would carry on this tradition? There was no one stepping up to the plate to produce these picture- and palate-perfect pies. The torch needed someone to carry it forward, holding it high.
We've been terribly busy in my house these last few weeks, so I was more than a little surprised when I found my wife, Gwendolyn, talking pies with my mother. They were reviewing the recipes, nailing down each and every little detail, until Gwendolyn felt confident in her ability to do justice to the work.
And what work it was! Just the planning was enough to make your head spin, including searches for just the right ingredients, and just the right cookware and appliances. The trip to the supermarket was highlighted by a request to the produce clerk to see if there were more McIntosh apples in the back, as the floor was fully depleted. Fortunately more were located, saving the forthcoming effort. Each night for the last three Gwendolyn would work on the pies - producing the dough, making the filling, and baking them in advance. She finished this labor of love early Wednesday morning, at about 2 AM.
Yesterday we embarked on our journey, in the early afternoon, and traveled to the location of this year's family gathering and meal, Syracuse, New York. The pies and mince squares made the trip, protected carefully from any chance of damage from objects shifting during transit. How do they look? Great. How do they taste? Well, they'll be the afternoon meal's final act, so I can't say yet how they did taste. But I do know how they will taste.
They'll taste like home.