Lemon Meringue, the Alternative Thanksgiving Pie

lemon tartlet

It’s Day 20 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m woefully behind in completing my challenge. Luckily, I’m a perennial procrastinator who does better under pressure. Though I swore I would not take any more breaks from writing today, I did sneak a peak at the Food Network website. Not to waste time drooling over beautiful desserts, of course, but just to quickly search for a lemon-cranberry jellyroll cake recipe (which I thought of while diligently working on my Pawtisserie Mystery book). I didn’t find one, but the idea inspired me to write this Thanksgiving memory…

This year I want to try something new. I always bring the baked goods for our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and they are always pumpkin-based. However, this year my sister is jetting off to a holiday island paradise, which leads me to the lovely lemon. You see, she is a pumpkin aficionado. She eagerly anticipates this time of year on the culinary calendar, trying everything that could possibly include this giant orange fruit. She has delighted in pumpkin pancakes, ice cream, latte, muffins, hummus, bread, cake, cookies, butter, etc., etc. Clearly, she inherited all the pumpkin-loving dna in our family.

Growing up, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my grandparents every year. My grandmother was a brilliant baker, and made pumpkin pies from scratch (both the crust and the pumpkin filling!). Early on, she realized I’m not a pumpkin pie lover and for as long as I could remember, she would make me my own lemon meringue tart. I felt very special with that sweet-tart bundle of joy on my plate, and my plate alone. Over the years, she patiently taught me how to make the tart, letting me roll out the crust and help whip the egg whites. I’ve made the recipe many times since, though I always use pre-made crusts (I only take the time to make crusts from scratch for the dogs).

It is with great joy that I look back on those days, standing on a chair next to her to reach the counter. Ten minutes in, I would be covered in flour, as was her kitchen, thanks to my exuberance. As I got older, I had the forethought to write down her recipes. When pressed as to the amount of each ingredient, she would answer “just enough.” But, Grandma, I would say, you must know how many cups of flour, teaspoons of baking powder, etc., there are. She would just smile, and again show me how to feel the dough to tell when I’ve added “just enough” of the ingredient. My father, a research biochemist, measured his ingredients by leveling off the cup (or 1/4 teaspoon) with a knife for the exact amount. If he had lived to watch Alton Brown, I’m sure we would have had a precision digital scale in the kitchen. Somehow, I blended both approaches into my baking style. Usually things work out, though I do wish I would remember to write down how much the “just enough” amount was when I’m creating recipes.

In the spirit of the season, I thank my dear Grandma for the years of spoiling me rotten (and not once pointing out the fact that I was the only one in the family–maybe in the country–who didn’t like pumpkin pie), and for sharing her passion for baking with me. That love led to my baking treats for my own spoiled (fur) child, opening a dog bakery, and now launching my new Pawtisserie Mystery series. Which reminds me….better get back to actually writing it. Cheers to you Grandma!

 

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