Kayaks killed the pumpkin pie

This is my answer to why I’m making sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving rather than pumpkin pies. I know you are asking how these two things are remotely related? A few weeks ago I told some of you that I was headed off to the North Pole to have my final strategy meeting with Santa and the Elves concerning Christmas cookies and chocolates. I lied. That meeting was in early October; a few weeks ago I went on vacation.

We enjoy going to Western North Carolina and up into the Smokies for vacation. We tent camp, hike and kayak and/or raft. Here’s a picture of me (in front) and the other half in a double duckie. We are looking pretty good, I think. Anyway, back to the pumpkins. Along the Nantahala River (this is a Cherokee word meaning “land of the noon day sun”) is the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). They host the Great Pumpkin Pursuit. The concept is the NOC numbers a BUNCH of small pumpkins then pitches them into the river above the Class III, Nantahala Falls. Image

Once the pitching begins, by costumed folks by the way, the collection begins by those in kayaks, rafts or those along the shore. Afterward, when all the chaos and dry clothes are found, numbers are drawn, and if you have the corresponding pumpkin you win a prize! Oh, wait -- did I tell you that these are PIE pumpkins?! Hmmmm, what a great way to get pumpkins for pumpkin pies, I’m thinking.

Are you guessing what happens? Pumpkins are pitched, we start paddling. I’m plucking pumpkins from the river, then, damn, we get hung up on a rock. It seems all the other boaters and pumpkins are passing us by. I need to make pies, I need pumpkins! At last we are free and approaching the falls. We forget the pumpkins for a few seconds...uh oh, I don’t think we picked the right line...the duckie noses into the bottom of the falls…. Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Scott manages to keep the ducky and his paddle, I assume river rescue position and start floating down river, on my back, feet first, clutching my paddle. I indicate to those around me I’m ok. Then, wait, there’s a pumpkin! I reach out--SCORE! I make it to shore with my paddle and two pumpkins, Scott swings by to pick me up and we continue down river to the take out. We nab six pumpkins total but sadly not enough for all my pie orders.

We haul them back to the beach from the mountains and I bake them. I will have a few Nantahala River Pumpkin Pies available, and I won’t even charge extra. I can’t let that pumpkin go to waste.

But, what’s the real reason I’m making sweet potato pies? North Carolina is the top producing state for sweet potatoes, it’s our state vegetable and they are yummy. I roast them and puree them until smooth. I follow my pumpkin pie recipe but cut back on the sugar to balance with the sweet potatoe’s natural sweetness. The custard goes into a handmade, spice crust. Serve them with a little whipped cream and your picky eaters probably will not even know it’s not pumpkin. But you can still tell the story like it is.