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.

PruittWrites November And December

In the next two months a lot is happening at PruittWrites.com and on our Amazon page. In November, we’ll be sharing the free Thanksgiving story “A Turkey Flew Over Pittsburgh” as a side dish to your holiday. As well as “Burnt Sweet Potato Pie”.

For Christmas in December, they’re going to be several gifts from us to you. Including “The Christmas Guitar”, “Christmas In Triage “, and “Christmas LEDs”. Along with various Christmas Watercolors and iPaintings.

In conjunction with our Amazon release of our Bible Study, The Native in paperback and eBook, we’ll be sharing excerpts from the book. This is a very special book to us, both the content and the paintings. Each was specifically created for the book, in Watercolor, iPaintings, and Acrylic.

Along with it, every PruittWrites Christmas story from the past four years is available in paperback in PruittWrites Snow Days. There are also eBook versions of L.O.C. And Key, Scarfed, and Captain Christmas. There are also the children’s picture books, Jesus Is Born, and The Christmas Lion.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are so very special to us, we want to share our gifts with you this holiday season. Whether it’s while you’re roasting the turkey, or baking Christmas cookies, we hope you’ll take time to enjoy what PruittWrites.

Thanksgiving and Pizza

  My first job was in a pizza place, and the night before Thanksgiving was one of the busiest of the year.  Up until then, I never associated pizza with November in any way.  It seemed everyone was so busy cooking tomorrow’s dinner, that no one wanted to make that night’s meal.

Most people were nice, some were not, but we couldn’t allow it to affect our reactions.  When their pizza was boxed up, and they turned to leave, we were smiling at the next person in line. It was more than good business, it’s a wonderful prescription for enjoying this season.

Someone you meet in the next twenty four hours will be either angry, or grouchy. You may not realize it, but rude people lurk around the spice aisle where you buy nutmeg once a year.  You can’t isolate yourself from them, but we can insulate ourselves.

First, find the joy in this time of year for yourself. What about it makes you happy? Once you know, lock that down in your heart. Don’t allow others to steal your happiness these next few days and weeks.

Second, view others, especially the irritable ones, through eyes of compassion.  Their anger, attitude, and actions, could stem from depression, heartache, or loneliness.  Remembering this, will alter your entire view of the man who just snatched the last stalk of celery you needed.  

Lastly, if you find their moods affecting you, watch for it. You’re human, people are going to get on your nerves, don’t let them stay there.  Refuse to allow a momentary interaction to dictate your actions the rest of the day.

Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the other special events of your life, are too important to allow others to ruin them. Mentally box up the few minutes you spent with them, and push it out of your mind.  Then smile at who or what is ahead of you, knowing that you’re happiness is safe behind the counter of your heart.

Thanksgiving In June

“I want a 25 lb turkey, do you have one?”  John McKee almost laughed in the customer’s face.  There were only two things that stopped him.  One, it was against store policy.  The second was for a much more important reason.  It was his Grandmother, Hilda Klein.  You didn’t laugh at Hilda Klein.

Instead he said something almost as dangerous.  “Grandma, you can’t afford a 25 lb turkey!”  She was five foot one, cotton white hair, blue eyes, gray glasses.  Her weight, while unknown, was pronounced.  She was dressed in her best clothing.  To anyone else, she would have failed to intimidate, but this was family.

She raised herself up to her total height, looked him straight in the eye, and quietly said.  “John Francis McKee, do not proceed to tell me what I can or cannot afford.  I will ask you once more, do you have a 25 lb turkey?”  He nodded quickly, and within three minutes time, was carrying it out to her car for her.

“I’ll expect you, your fiance, and your siblings at my house tomorrow at 2:00 in the afternoon.”  This stopped him in his tracks.  “Grandma, tomorrow’s a Tuesday, I can’t get out of work.” 

“Oh yes you can.  I spoke to your supervisor’s manager on the way in.  While he was arguing with me, he received a call from the store’s owner.  Just for his impertinence, you have three days off with pay.  You’ve worked plenty  hard, enjoy it.”

The next day, all 27 members of the Klein family, plus 18 extended members were present.  Grandpa Ezekiel looked as if he was a deer in headlights.  As amazing a woman as she was, he couldn’t believe that she had accomplished it. 

The entire family heard something in the living room.  They went in to see Grandma working the VCR remote like a pro.  You would hardly imagine she was 82.  The television’s sound was elevated louder than normal to get everyone’s attention.  Suddenly, the Macy’s Day parade was on the screen.  What made this so surprising was the calendar.  It read, not incorrectly, June 17. 

Finally, Laura, her oldest could take no more.  “Mom, what’s this all about?”  Grandma smiled.  “This past year was the toughest that our family has ever went through.  From your Michael’s surgery to John’s accident, to your brother Harry’s job, it’s been hard.”

“We needed a little something to pick up everyone’s mood.  Since it was too early for Christmas in July, I went for Thanksgiving In June.”  Sally, your six year old helped me tape it last November.  I wanted to see what I had missed by cooking.  I saved it.”

That was the memory John smiled at as he mailed the package.  It had been twenty five years now, but it had become a family tradition.  At the end of that dinner, Grandma had given the wishbone to his Uncle Harry.

She had said.  “We don’t believe in lucky charms in this family.  God has, is, and always will take care of us.  So take this, not as a good luck charm, it never did the bird any good.  Take it as a reminder that no matter how bad it is, we have hope.  We have food on our table, family beside us, and a future in front of us. Hope in God, and work happy.  Use it as a plow not a wishbone.  It’s the same shape.”

Uncle Harry did just that.  When his son Wendell was struggling in school, he carved a wishbone out of a tree, and painted it white.  That afternoon he gave it to him.  It was passed along in the family from one member to the other over the years.

John received it last August when he had his heart attack.  Now, it was going to his sister Sally.  She and her husband had just adopted a child in need of a good home.  He figured they could use the encouragement.

Grandma, who lived on a fixed income, couldn’t afford that extra Thanksgiving meal.  John found out later that she had been saving for a new living room set.  While she was far from even enough money for a love seat, they all sat down to a house filled with love.

Whether it was June or November, she knew it was always time for Thanksgiving.  Time, not for the meal she used to illustrate it, but time to be thankful.  Grandma taught them not to focus on the setbacks, but The God that set them up.  Her last two sentences on the subject that afternoon were his favorite, “Obstacles don’t stop you, outlooks do.  Hearts filled with Thanksgiving produce eyes full of possibilities!”