Burnt Sweet Potato Pie

Trudy fought to hold back the tears. She had followed the recipe to a t, she thought. Her first clue was the smoke, the second was the foam that formed on the edge of the pan. When one bite of the quickly cooled concoction confirmed her fears, uncontrollable sobs fell. This was not the Thanksgiving she had planned.

She had successfully cooked Thanksgiving dinner before, she wasn’t a novice. Granted it had been a few years, Mom and her sisters had rotated the responsibility of the main dinner for the last five years. It had been four since her last turn.

Everyone brought sides, but the main house did three dishes, the turkey, the dressing, and the sweet potato pie. Trudy was afraid the turkey looked drier than last time, but she was probably overthinking it. She reminded herself the dressing needed more sage, but the thing that she had to get right was dessert.

Now, her first sweet potato pie was a flop. She had done something wrong, but she didn’t have time to figure it out. She sat it aside on the counter by the sink, and started two new ones. “Charles, I need you.”

These words, on this day, struck fear into her husband’s heart. He had been part of a big family, the first to get his license. Charles knew what that meant on Thanksgiving day. He still remembered the look his Father had given him the first day it had happened.

Particularly the smile that seemed to say, “You have the license now, it’s your turn.” His Dad had muttered something when he tossed him the keys, that sounding suspiciously like “I’m free.” Ever since then, Charles waited til Wendy had gotten her license. He thanked God every day that his Father had not been a chauvinist, especially that first Thanksgiving when it was her turn.

“What am I getting?” Was his intended first sentence, until he saw the tears. “Baby, what’s wrong? Don’t worry, everything’s going to be ok. How can I help?” Was what came out as he hugged his bride. “Sweet potatoes, sugar, pecans … Too much to say, I’ll text you.”

It was his second trip that day, and he felt noble in the fact that he had resisted responding like his brother Joe had last year at his house. “Joe still winces when he eats a turkey sandwich a year later.” He said as he looked at the market once getting out of the car.

It was as horrible as he expected it to be, but he made it home in forty five minutes. Any other day, it would have been a twenty minute trip. Trudy had him double check her on every step. Soon, both pies were in the oven, and Trudy placed two more in the refrigerator as backups to cook next.

The Hudson/Cantrell family loved their sweet potato pies. While they cooked, Trudy went to change, charging Charles with the responsibility of watching them. Sweet potato pie hadn’t been as big a deal to the Hudson side of the family until he married Trudy.

For some reason, the Cantrell family put it right up above the dressing, almost more important than the turkey. No one had ever said why. When Trudy came back, one still wasn’t ready. She took the one out to cool, and put one of the refrigerator pies in the oven.

Charles ran to catch a very quick shower. He had just finished dressing when the doorbell rang. Soon all the family was laughing and talking about memories. Everything was going great.

Trudy was still a little preoccupied. Her Mom asked her what was going on. She said she just wanted to make sure the dessert was ok. Even her Mom thought she was over checking the kitchen, and her Mom was a worry wart.

She switched out the two that were done, and placed the last refrigerator pie in the oven. They sat down to eat. Trudy’s Dad would say Grace, and Charles’ Dad would ask each what they were thankful for.

Before long, everyone was eating. It was going well. Charles smiled at Trudy, and she smiled back, until the smell came from the kitchen. This time the smoke alarm went off. She had forgotten the last pie.

Trudy ran to the kitchen, and Charles followed. She took it out of the oven, and turned it off. Charles stopped the alarm. Tears started again, her mother Molly looked at George and he obediently followed.

There in the middle of the kitchen the two couples consoled one another. Molly took her daughter by the hand, and set her on the stool. “This isn’t about the sweet potato pie. You got three out of four right.”

“More like three out of five, I burnt one earlier. I just wanted the dessert to be perfect.” Trudy explained. Charles added an explanation. “We were going to make an announcement after the sweet potato pie.”

Molly looked at her daughter, then looked at her husband, and then at George. His eyes got big, a sentimental smile began, which turned into boisterous laughter. This started her daughter’s tears again, until George rushed to explain.

“Honey, I’m not laughing at you, or Charles. I’m laughing at a couple about thirty two years ago. Dry your face, come into the dining room. Make your announcement, and we’ll explain.”

Reluctantly, she agreed. They all rejoined the family. Trudy and Charles shared their news, and for the next thirty minutes, everyone congratulated the expecting couple. George, not wanting to steal their thunder, waited til everyone sat down to sweet potato pie.

“Molly and I have been married for thirty four years. Two years after we were married, we found out that a very special gift was on it’s way. When she arrived, we named her Trudy, and we found out she was coming the second week of November.”

“It was your Mother’s plan to announce after Thanksgiving dinner. She made all kinds of things for dessert, back then you cooked for days. She decided to try something that wasn’t a family tradition for us, sweet potato pie.”

Molly took over. “A friend at work told me how much her family loved it. So I decided I’d try it. They didn’t turn out so well.”

George laughed again. “They were burnt sweet potato pies. I never forgot the taste of the piece I ate.”

Molly gave him a mock look of anger and smiled. “Everyone reassured me it was fine, but only George insisted on eating two pieces. We told everyone that we were going to have a baby, and from then on sweet potato pie became very important to us. Although your Dad always insisted we buy enough for four pies.”

George finished it up. “I was very thankful for burnt sweet potato pie then. I never wanted to eat it again. Now, today, I don’t really mind it.”

Thanksgiving has always been more than turkey and the trimmings. It’s about being thankful for your faith, family, friends, and blessings. An sometimes yes, it’s about food, parades, memories, and even burnt sweet potato pie.

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