Pumpkin Pie in the Free World

by moonwatcher on November 18, 2012

(The fat free, gluten free, soy free world, that is.)

The first Thanksgiving after my diagnosis of MS, back in 1996, I was well into a gluten free mostly dairy free and low fat way of eating, based on ELISA tests I had taken through a naturopath nine months earlier. As of yet, I had no idea about this way of eating and its definition of what low fat is. Alternative caregivers would say, yes, low fat is good, but none of them defined what that was or how to achieve that.  In fact, “good oils” were encouraged: flax, olive, canola. I had also been told that the Swank Diet was one in which you “eat a lot of chicken and fish” (which I didn’t want to do—again, not being told much about what that actually meant or where to find that info in pre internet-at-home days), so I doggedly tried to eat some baked fish once a week. (Years later, another alternative health care practitioner suggested I might have methyl mercury poisoning going on. I stopped eating the fish, took my daffodil flower essence, and did my manual therapy homework religiously. The most obvious of those indications went away within weeks, astounding the concerned practitioner.)

But I digress. What I am remembering is the time I saw Lorna Sass’s pumpkin pie recipe in a Gold Mine Natural Foods catalogue. It didn’t use milk. It didn’t use eggs.  The whole grain crust could be made with all oats and oat flour instead of wheat. So I gave it a try.

That pie has worked Thanksgiving magic every year since then with everyone who takes a bite, even the most dedicated omnivores or eaters of the standard American diet. And sometimes at other special occasions.  The best compliment I ever received came on one of these. About six years ago, I sheltered a young family of activists who had fled from a fire in faulty wiring that burned the old farmhouse they were renting to the ground. They came for the night, and ended up living with me for about 6 months. A 20 something Mom, a 30 something Dad, the most delightful two year old I will ever know besides my own, and two dogs.

My town is on the threshold of some of the most beautiful wild places in the lower 48. So naturally it is also a place where environmental activists have organized to preserve those wild places. Activists like to nickname themselves, so for the purposes of this story, I will nickname them for you. The young mother we’ll call Running Girl, because she loved to run, and because she was in the running to get into law school. (She’s now kicking ass as a public defender back east.) The Dad we’ll call Amazing Dad, because he is. And the toddler we’ll call Magic Boy, because he is. The dog’s names, Snoopy and Homescratch, are just too great to change, so they’ll stay the same. Snoopy, bless her big giant heart, now rests in peace.)

Magic Boy and Snoopy in the snow

The particular group of activists this family was involved with often did the work of feeding people in non-violent civil disobedience actions.  I’ll introduce another member of this group, because he is key to my story: a forty-something, taciturn veteran organizer and cook, who mumbled when he talked, and coughed from all the cigarettes he smoked while reading the New York Times, or any other times during the day he had the chance. He’s been active for decades in anti-nuclear and environmental campaigns and was known around the country for his dedicated work.  He had been a good friend to Running Girl when she was a teenager who came of age sitting in old growth trees to keep them from being cut down.  Since Running Girl used to tease him with this name, we’ll call him Eeyore.

Eeyore and Running Girl had birthdays just days apart in October. Running Girl was about to turn 25. Her mother had died when she was 19, and her Dad, though pleasant, lived across the country, and was a bit of a child himself. So no parents would be sending her checks or presents or coming to visit. The fire had burned everything they owned up but half a baby shoe. Being 25 years her elder, I took on the gift of making a vegan birthday “treat.” Because, yes, in those days Running Girl was very much a dyed-in-the-not-wool vegan. And of course I wanted it to be a surprise her taste buds and conscience could enjoy.  She had told me a few days before that sometimes she just wanted to go crawl in a hole and hide. And yet she had to finish classes and study for the LSAT, while Amazing Dad took loving care of Magic Boy (which he did unfailingly). So the mood was not the best birthday one. Nevertheless, I felt at least this pumpkin pie might entice. I made it while she was gone to school. And invited Eyeore over for the evening, since seeing him always cheered her up. I put candles on the pie and insisted we sing “happy birthday” to  both of them. But I was nervous about Eeyore eating my pie. He isn’t one to trust cooking or baking he hasn’t done himself. He much prefers to be the chef.

Nevertheless, he showed up. And when he said in his gravelly, dead-pan way, “This is the best vegan pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.” it was like hitting a home run in a game that had been a no-hitter thus far. He didn’t smile, but he gave the compliment. And I did the smiling (even though at the time my face hurt like hell to do it.)

Since then, the recipe has gotten further makeovers. I no longer use the canola oil in the crust. Instead I use homemade pear sauce. And I no longer use soy milk. Now I use almond. This year I’m toying with subbing the maple syrup out for date syrup, and maybe making some pecan milk to use in the filling. So here it is. A pumpkin pie for those of us who have to be oil free, dairy free, egg free, gluten free, soy free and granulated sugar free. The Free World never tasted so good.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

 

Maria

 

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lou November 19, 2012 at 1:35 am

Hi there Maria
What a lovely story you have shared and i love your photos.
The colours of fruits and veges really delight me. In australia we dont have Thanksgiving and pumpkin is mostly made into soup or roasted. I would like to try your pie and the crust really appeals.
I hope you are keeping well!

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2 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 8:09 am

Thank you Lou! So glad it appeals. You don’t have to be her to celebrate Thanksgiving to try this pie out, or to feel thankful, either! Glad to hear from a friend “down under.” I am keeping well, and hope you are too.

Maria

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3 Jane November 19, 2012 at 4:32 am

Yes, it looks great and I’d love to make it! I have made something similar before, because to me the softness and sweetness of pumpkin (or baked sweet potato) are a natural contrast to the wholegrain, nutty crunchiness of the crust and the recipe almost suggests itself. I fell down on the crust though, my family pronouncing it “too like bread”. That was with wholewheat flour, though. Maria, what is arrowroot starch and what is its purpose in the recipe? I may have to substitute for it.

And on another topic entirely – but you mentioned it – the matter of mercury poisoning. I may have something similar and am currently undergoing weekly sessions of chelation to try to get it out of the system. I was exposed to a lot of mercury as a child (we actually used to play with it) as well as having a large number of amalgam fillings. I am not sure if “methyl” mercury and straight mercury are the same. But I am interested in how you detoxified from it, if that is what you did …?

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4 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

Hi Jane,

Arrowroot starch is the thickener for the pie filling. It is lighter than cornstarch, which could also be used, if you can’t find the arrowroot. I supposed you could try potato starch or tapioca starch if you can’t find either of those. The cornstarch would be the best sub, though.

In my cursory understanding, the methyl mercury is associated with contaminated fish consumption. The result of eating up high on the food chain. I think the effects are similar, but you would have to check. Truth is, I did not get too attached to “getting it out.” I am a strong believer in Susan Weed’s model of the Wise Woman Tradition of healing. She writes, “In the Wise Woman Tradition, we nourish. We do not fix or cure or balance.” Fixing and curing and balancing are more predominant in other healing traditions, which she calls Heroic and Scientific. She says we all use all of them, of course, but my “ground zero” is the Wise Woman Tradition. Thus, I used only very gentle means of working with this likelihood (I did not have a lab test. This was suggested as a result of palpation during a body work session.) So I did my hands-on holding points homework, and took a flower essence that I felt would help me dissipate heavy metal congestion, and, essential, of course, I stopped eating the fish, which did not make me feel all that well anymore. My practitioner and I decided that chelation would be too harsh for me, as would the process of removing amalgam fillings. I wish you the best in determining whic strategies are right for helping to heal your own body of mercury’s influence. Each of us is unique in this regard.

Maria

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5 Nicole O'Shea November 19, 2012 at 7:53 am

Yummy lookin’ recipe! I will definitely try that out, Maria. I hope Running Girl, Amazing Dad, Magic Boy and Homescratch are all doing well now. Eeyore – love it! Glad he enjoyed your pie : )

I am also curious, like Jane, about how you dealt with methyl mercury poisoning. How does daffodil flower essence help? Was the manual therapy for the poisoning or for your particular symptoms?

xoxo

Nicole

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6 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 8:26 am

Hi Nicole!

Thanks! (See no more only gross leftovers for you. Those relatives will be fighting to taste this pie!!) And yes, Running Girl, Amazing Dad, Magic Boy are all doing well in their different configurations. Homescratch, too, who now lives with Running Girl’s Dad. I recently saw her when she was out west for a brief trip. She said, “I’m not that strict a vegan anymore,” and I said, “Well I am!” And she said “we switched!!” And we both laughed and hugged as if we were back in my kitchen, making dinner together.

Daffodil flower essence helps attune the physical body to the Higher Self, but it also can ease issues associated with heavy metals. In general I would say that it lifts us from “heaviness” to the place where we can follow Higher guidance and counsel. Thus it is a good aid for meditation. The manual therapy was for general symptoms seeming ot be related to the MS. We just stumbled upon this possibility during a session with a guest practitioner. The palpating process sometimes brings up some intersting things. :)

I also answered Jane about this, so hopefully that answer fills in some more context.

xoxo

Maria

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7 Nicole O'Shea November 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

Thanks Maria! Yes, between the two replies, it helps a lot.

xoxo

Nicole

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8 Alisa November 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

Hi Maria, I really enjoy your stories and I hope to learn from them as well. My boyfriend was diagnosed with MS last year. We have since changed our diets and follow a vegan, no oil diet. If you have any suggestions for books with information regarding what should definitely be avoided in his diet to maintain his health, I would love to know where I can find that good information so as to keep him as healthy as possible. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe for the holidays, thank you for sharing. I hope you have a Happy Holiday!

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9 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

Hi Alisa, thanks for your lovely comment. I think you and your boyfriend are doing a great thing with the way you are eating. I have combed many books for specifics about what I should be paying attention to. The best one, though it is not a strictly vegan resource, is Dr. Swank’s classic, The Multiple Scerosis Diet book, though you have to translate it into no oil or no animal foods. I am hoping at some point to get a bibliography up on a FAQ page here, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. Hopefully soon. Food intolerances are often very individual, so just pay attention to how what you eat affects your digestion, etc. Wheat and soy can be problems for some people, as they are for me, but not others. Dr. Swank cautions against chocolate and coconut, and gives measurements of other high fat foods like olives and avocados and seeds and nuts, so you can stay at 20 grams (or below). I hope you and your boyfriend enjoy the pie. It’s my pleasure to share it with more people. A Happy Holiday to both of you!!

Maria

10 Mary Kate November 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I love pumpkin pie, and I have really been looking for a way to make it egg, soy, and dairy free. Gluten-free crust seems to have many options, but the innards of the pie just…

Pinning my hopes on this one this year.

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11 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Hi Mary Kate!! I am so happy you are going to try the pie! I’ve been making it for nearly 17 years in one incarnation or other. Let me know how it goes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Maria

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12 moonwatcher November 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Hi Mary Kate!! I am so glad to read you are excited about trying out the pie! I hope your hopes will not be disappointed. I’ve been making it in one incarnation or another for nearly 17 years. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Maria

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13 Suzy February 27, 2013 at 8:27 am

Hi Maria,
I follow a similar diet and I just found your blog. Can you tell me how to make the date syrup? I love your blog now I gotta figure out how to sign up.

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14 moonwatcher February 27, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hi Suzy! So glad to hear you are following a similar diet and that you found my blog. It’s easy to sign up for. To the right of the post at the top there are two options to click on. One for RSS and one for being notified by e-mail. Just click and follow the steps. If you have questions or troubles, let me know at moonwatcher@fatfreevegan.com.

The date syrup I used in the pie is commercially made, a brand my co-oop carries called Date Lady. It’s expensive, but I don’t use a lot all the time so I splurge. I have also made it myself with whole medjool dates according to a recipe Chef AJ has in her book Unprocessed. The basic method is to simmer dates covered in water for about 30 minutes, then let cool at bit, then pour into a blender and blend. This makes something more like paste, but it keeps a long time in the fridge. I haven’t tried it in the pie, but I have used it in other recipes. Straightupfood blog http://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2010/05/04/orange-berry-muffins/ uses it in all her dessert recipes to good effect. Hope this helps, and welcome aboard!!

Maria

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15 Carole May 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Hi Maria, this is a version of pumpkin pie that would help many people. Please do drop me a line on ca4ole@gmail.com if you are ok with me linking it to my blog (Carole’s Chatter). Cheers

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16 Bee November 26, 2013 at 3:26 am

Maria, can u go into more specifics about your daily diet? Luke u, I’msstruggling with similar issues and would love to see a sample days diet. Your story is very inspiring. Do u have a blog?

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17 moonwatcher November 26, 2013 at 8:39 am

Welcome, Bee! You have discovered my blog! This is it. :) I have many posts about what I eat every day: oats and fruits for breakfast, soups, salads and other grains and beans for lunch and dinner. No oil whole food that’s also gluten free and soy free in my particular case. This pumpkin pie post is a special event. Most of the recipe posts are simple things I eat all the time. My newest post is made from a simple one pot meal I make almost every week:http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/11/25/red-quinoa-brown-rice-lentil-stuffed-squash-gluten-free/

I hope you’ll look through the categories and find some things that appeal to you. Here’s a couple of breakfast posts to get you started:http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/07/11/old-fashioned-gluten-free-oats/
http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/08/21/a-progressive-plant-based-breakfast-with-massaged-breakfast-kale/
And here’s a post about how low fat I eat, with the easiest salad dressing in the world:
http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2013/07/29/how-much-is-an-ounce-and-the-easiest-avocado-dressing-in-the-world/

Happy surfing, and all best to you!! :)

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