If you’re in the USA you’re undoubtedly getting ready for one of the biggest feast days of the year – Thanksgiving. Perhaps your thoughts are already being filled by the delicious delicacies that you’ll be treating yourself to. Turkey, stuffing, mac n’ cheese, green bean casserole and of course – pumpkin pie. It may surprise you discover that this Fall dessert, whilst delectable, wasn’t found on the tables at the first Thanksgiving. Nor did it originate in the New World. In fact, it’s far more of a modern day staple for Turkey Day.
Evidence suggests that pumpkins originated in South America over seven thousand years ago and overtime also became native to New England. It’s believed that Native Americans traditionally prepared pumpkins by cooking them in slices over the hot coals of their fires. The vegetables began being exported to England and France during the Tudor period and the versatility of them were quickly recognised, including using them as a filler.
Pumpkin pies as we know them today were developed in the mid seventeenth century in France. Renowned chef Francois Pierre la Varenne created a recipe for a pompion torte - a pastry crust with a sweet pumpkin filling. Similar recipes began appearing in English cook books by 1675, one of the most notable being Hannah Woolley’s The Gentlewoman’s Companion. Meanwhile, it took 150 years for Varenne’s creation to begin appearing in American cookbooks, and it was only then that the pies began become a common item at the Thanksgiving table.
However, despite this beloved pie not being present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, the vegetable itself certainly was. Pilgrims had brought pumpkin recipes with them on the Mayflower that were sweeter than that of the the Native Americans. In fact, they served a kind of pudding at the iconic dinner which involve hollowing out a pumpkin and filling it with milk, honey and spices. It was then baked in hot ashes.
Regardless of the pie’s origin, it continues to be a staple at American Thanksgiving dinner tables today, as well as a symbol of the Fall season in general. With that it mind, you should probably go and have a slice.