Baked golden pastry, warmed butter, cinnamon, rain falling outside… Last week we made pumpkin pie together and we tried a new recipe for both the pastry and the pumpkin filling. I live in a community house duplex for folks on various journeys towards wellness. Baking together is not only a delicious adventure, but it also builds friendship and community and brings joy to someone else, just as they bring joy to me. When you are living among others who are on a journey towards health and stable living, you end up learning a whole lot more about your own wellness needs. Sometimes celebrating new gifts and shared creativity (such as baking) can do so much in building trust, healing wounds, and building relationship.
I’m learning that time together in any creative process is a way to honour one other, and say ‘you mean something to me; I value you.” Even when words aren’t spoken, standing side by side and sharing the creative process has a language of love all on its own.
Jean Vanier, the founder of the international L’Arche organization, inspires me to work on loving better–to love with integrity but also with new heights: “We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.” The amount of love felt between two or three people as they mix flour and butter together, take turns adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and knead and roll out the dough can be extraordinary. There is something about the act of the hands ‘making’ together that is caring and uniting. A simple act of baking pumpkin pie can provide a space of connection that is so human and so beyond human.
This creating of family through warm baked pies coming out of our oven reminded of a memory I hold dear to my heart: it was another time in my life of celebrating family with pumpkin pie…
I was eight years old. It was the Christmas holidays and I was in California with my family, visiting my aunt, uncle and cousin. The sky was the blue of innocence, we got to wear shorts in winter, and for some reason, I also remember with great fondness playing hoops with the echo of the ball on the backboard like my young child heartbeat. But what I remember most about that holiday is our pumpkin pie moment. It was like tasting something golden. I remember all of us sitting together at supper time, candle going, full tummies from dinner, and a stirring feeling of contentment. I remember the child-like trust that this would never end. I remember the joy of 64 crayola crayons that Christmas, of the excitement of flying on an airplane, the adventure of being picked up from school in a snowstorm to make it to the airport on time, the huge church with so many candles and strangers who all seemed to have something in common, on Christmas Eve. I remember love.
When I baked pumpkin pies with my housemates last week, it wasn’t just the present moment pumpkin pies that brought joy; it was the memory laid overtop, it was the past and present coming together into a new experience of deeper joy. It was remembering what comfort family could bring me as a child, and then knowing together the same feeling of family but in an entirely new and unexpected way in our community house. It was delivering the pies together, watching my housemates go to the joy, hearing S. whoop with joy when she got back to the car, and starting to really understand that being a blessing to others brings more joy than anything we could do for ourselves.
If you are in pie making mood this holiday season, maybe make this a family event, or do it with friends. You’ll be surprised how that mixing and kneading and rolling will ground you in love and give you a space to invite one another into the kind of shared humanness and extraordinary love that Jean Vanier talks about. And when that happens, no matter the recipe, the ingredient you won’t see there, but will definitely feel is … a really big *spoonful of love.
Recipe for Pie Crust Pastry (enjoyed and adapted with thanks from Kevin Lee Jacobs @ www.agardenforthehouse.com
Pie Crust (makes 1 medium-sized pie)
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 stick or 1/4 cup (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
1/4 cup very cold water
*spoonful of extraordinary love
Recipe for Pumpkin Pie filling (adapted from a family friend’s recipe)
1.5 cups cooked pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1 tin (385 mL) tin carnation evaporated milk
1/2 tsp ginger, nutmeg, cloves
1/4 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine ingredients; pour into pie shell; sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top.
Cook at 350F for 55-60 minutes
Enjoy your pie and making it together, and feel free to share stories of your pie making in the comment section below.