The Origin of Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and there's much to be thankful for. Maybe you're like me and you're thankful for the wonderful desserts that fill the table.

But can you imagine what Thanksgiving would be like without the traditional pumpkin pie?

When did pumpkin pie originate and why is it traditionally served on Thanksgiving?

Pumpkins themselves were unheard of in Europe before the first European explorers brought the seeds back to their native lands. Pumpkins were not even mentioned in European writings until 1536. Within only a few years, the pumpkin caught on as being a wonderful dish--both savory and sweet.

By the time the first European settlers arrived in the New World, pumpkin was seen more as a practical and necessary food than as a treat. Pumpkins, because of their size and consistency were useful for feeding many people. In fact, as the people began to prosper in the new land, they began to serve "apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies," according to Captain Edward Johnson.

It is probable that pumpkin pie was served at the first Thanksgiving, although not in pie form.These "pumpkin pies" were sometimes baked in the pumpkin shell, sometimes without a crust, sometimes savory, and sometimes sweet. "Pumpkin pie" was a broad term encompassing all of these forms of the squash.

About the same time as Thanksgiving became widely celebrated in New England, the pumpkin pie that we know and love developed. By 1705, the beloved pie became so important that Colchester, Connecticut postponed its Thanksgiving celebration because the shipment of molasses was late.

Because pumpkin pie was a New England tradition, during the Civil War it quickly began to symbolize the North. Thus, after the war, the northern tradition became a national tradition.

When Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, southerners saw the move as enforcing Northern traditions on the South. Despite this, the beloved pumpkin pie won over the entire nation and has been celebrated ever since.

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