Pumpkin Pie Day
annually on November 21st
The main season for eating pumpkin pie begins with the fall harvest and ends with Christmas. During this time it is often eaten on Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkin Pie Day takes place right before Thanksgiving, making it the perfect time to bake a pie to take to your holiday gathering.
Pumpkin pie consists of a pumpkin filling that is a sweet, orange to brown pumpkin-based custard, made with fresh or canned pumpkin or a packaged pumpkin pie filling. It is commonly flavored with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Packaged pumpkin filling usually already has these spices in it. Pumpkin pie shells tend to be flaky, and usually don't have a top crust.
Pumpkins are native to the Americas. They were brought back to Europe by explorers in the sixteenth century and began being cultivated there. Some of the Pilgrims who came to America in 1620 may have already been familiar with pumpkins, but if not, some form of pumpkin food was served at the harvest celebration the following year, and they would have learned of them then.
There were many types of early pumpkin pies. In a 1653 French cookbook, pumpkin pie was made by boiling pumpkin in milk and straining it, and then placing it in a crust. In 1670, Hannah Wooley's Gentlewoman's Companion called for alternating layers of apple and pumpkin, sweet marjoram, spiced rosemary, and thyme. An early New England recipe used no crust but instead used a hollowed-out pumpkin as a base. It had spiced sweetened milk and was cooked in a fire. Amelia Simmons' American Cookery, first printed in 1796, had a pumpkin pie recipe that is similar to the popular custard version of today. It was called "pompkin pudding."
The popularity of pumpkin pie rose in the early eighteenth century, coinciding with the rise in the popularity of Thanksgiving. The holiday and the pie were popular in New England—pumpkin pie was mainly a localized food until after the Civil War. As the debate over slavery heated up in the mid-nineteenth century, many abolitionists from New England wrote about and referenced the food in books and other types of media. After President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as an official national holiday in 1863, many southerners saw both the holiday and the foods associated with it, such as pumpkin pie, as being forced on them. Nonetheless, pumpkin pie spread after the war.
In 1929, Libby's, a canned meat company, started selling canned pumpkin, and people could make pumpkin pies without having to use whole fresh pumpkins. But, the canned pumpkin actually wasn't pumpkin—it was Dickinson squash. Pumpkin pie has inspired countless pumpkin pie flavored foods, such as candy, beer, ice cream, and more. Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte has especially been popular in recent years. Today we celebrate the pumpkin pie, as well as these foods that are flavored like it.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by making a pumpkin pie, either with a fresh pumpkin or with filling from a can. Since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, you could save your pie to bring to a family gathering. But, if you end up eating it today, we really can't blame you. If making a pie seems like too much work, and you just want to spend the day eating pie, pick one up at a store, or stop at a place that has one of the best pumpkin pies in the country. If you don't feel like eating pie, you could enjoy pumpkin pie flavored beer, coffee, or candy.