Business Musings: Prioritizing Pie
As I’ve told you many times in the past, I love American Thanksgiving. It might be my favorite holiday. My celebration will be truncated this year, because I caught some kind of cold at 20Books last week. So I had to prioritize.
That early morning Thanksgiving run—by which point, I should be pretty much clear of these symptoms and not contagious? Or spending all of my excess energy making pies?
I think you can guess what I’m choosing.
The run is a later addition to my schedule. I used to run on Thanksgiving in Lincoln City, but it was just me, and usually in the pouring rain. One year, I went my usual route around a little park, and some woman—so drunk she could barely stand upright—cheered me on.
You go, honey. We should all be like you. Go!
She yelled that with each lap until a man came out of the house and gently led her back inside. Sometimes I think that was a metaphor for my final years on the Oregon Coast. Me, running in circles in the rain, while a drunk stranger who didn’t understand what I was doing tried to be encouraging.
Pies, on the other hand, are a family tradition. Or at least, a Kris tradition. In 1980, my grandmother (one of my favorite people ever) asked me to make the pies. At the time she was in her early 90s. She was hosting Thanksgiving, and my ex and I were driving from Madison to her place, two hours away.
I had never made pie before. My grandmother was a champion baker, so there was added pressure. To make matters worse, I had class that Wednesday until 5 or so. Then add the fact that I had never made a pie crust before, and I could see a disaster in the making.
Yet the pies (two of them) came out well. We packed them in the back of our little car, and drove through ice-sleet to get to Campbellsport, where my grandmother lived.
She proclaimed the pies delicious. Now, understand this: my grandmother was a kind woman. She might’ve been being polite. Or she might’ve told the truth, since she had at least two pieces. (She had a hell of a sweet tooth.)
From that day on, pies have been my responsibility. It’s safer that way, with all of my allergies. But it also brings me closer to a woman I lost thirty years ago this year. It’s a ritual that reminds me of her. I still want to be her when I grow up. She was a great lady, and I miss her every day.
So it was easy to choose pie over running.
I love the celebration at the turkey trot we attend. I love the costumes and people and all of the good wishes, before we scatter to our respective feasts.
But I don’t love it as much as pie.
Thanksgiving has always been Dean’s holiday too, starting in the 1970s as well, when he cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for himself after a nightmarish family meal. That’s his story to tell, not mine, and I hope he does so.
But he has cooked the same meal for friends every Thanksgiving since. (Except one, when I was the guest of honor at a convention in Los Angeles, and Christine Valada and her husband, the much-missed, much-loved Len Wein invited us to their celebration.) Dean’s rule? Bring what you consider to be essential to Thanksgiving. He’d provide turkey, potatoes, gravy, and stuffing.
In the days before I knew what all of my allergies were, I’d add the pie (of course), the green bean casserole (which I can no longer have. [sigh]) and jellied cranberry that is the shape of the can. You must understand. The cranberry is not for eating (although some do). It’s a ritual, for admiring.
This year, it will be just me and Dean. My cold precludes others, but surgeries and Covid and a required family dinner on the part of nearby friends prevented others from joining us as well.
But you can rest assured there will be pie and cranberries and Dean’s yummy turkey and potatoes and stuffing. We will having a small contingent of begging cats. (Probably just Angel, instead of the dozen we had one year, when it was yours, mine, ours, and theirs. [Another long story].) This will be a Pie Year by the usual definition (two pies per person), but since there’s only two of us, that’s not hard. (Previous Pie Years saw as many as ten pies—my pumpkin, some apple, pecan, and mincemeat pies.)
So it’ll be the most quiet Thanksgiving since the one we had in 2020. That’s all right. It’s been a hectic and weird year. I’m okay with quiet.
I love the memories and the stories that have become friends-lore. But most of all, I love the point of this holiday. It is not American football (although some love that), or parades (which others enjoy). It’s not the pies or the turkey or the fact that most people in this country will be eating the exact same meal (with a handful of variations).
What I love about this holiday is embedded in the name. Thanks-giving. This is a day for giving thanks for all the abundance that we have.
We have a lot of abundance. A great deal. We have great lifelong friends. Great new friends. Great friends—all of whom are our family.
We live in a place we love, both the condo and the city. We have wonderful cats (even if they are strange. As I write this, Gavin is walking around yelling at the top of his lungs for no reason at all).
Dean and I have complimentary careers, in the same industry. We run a strong business to maintain those careers. The team at WMG is unbelievably good and very hardworking. We appreciate that more than we can say.
We have readers for our work. I thank my lucky stars every day for that. I don’t write with the readership in mind. In my opinion in that way lies madness. So that means that the readers like what I like to create. That means I’m very fortunate.
Do they like everything? No, they don’t. And that’s good too. It means I’m remaining true to my craft. I’m the only one who likes everything I do. And that’s how writing should work.
I also appreciate all of you. So many of you come to my website week after week, filled with ideas and suggestions and links. You share what I’m doing with friends, disagree with me when necessary, and help me figure out what, exactly, I’m doing.
I feel like we’ve been on this journey together for over eleven years now, as I learn how the publishing industry has changed, and you have shared your experiences.
I know that many of you came for the Year in Review Part 2. I’ve been sleeping and sneezing, so I haven’t had the chance to write the in-depth piece I want to write.
Again, I prioritized pie.
But rest assured there will be more year in review, and a lot of great stuff that I learned this year at 20Books.
I can’t wait to share it all with you.
Because you’re what keeps me doing this work, week in and week out. I value you. I appreciate your opinions, your thoughts…and most importantly, your presence.
So even if you don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, or if you celebrated your country’s form of it in, say, October (I’m looking at you, Canadians), please take in my gratitude.
Thank you all.
If I could, I’d give you a piece of homemade pie.
Instead, find one on your own and enjoy it while thinking about me, and how happy I am in that you’re part of my life.
Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.
“Business Musings: Prioritizing Pie,” copyright © 2022 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2022 by Kristine K. Rusch
I’m impressed – 2 pies per person is a lot of pie. Our younger daughter made us her pumpkin pie, covered with a layer of candied pecans. It’s a lovely combination of the two, and the crust is rye. My pie crusts are either fabulous or they tend to fall apart! We have this much enthusiasm for Christmas cookies.I”ll stick with chipping away at our 26 (+5 optional ones, if energy lasts.) This level of crazy should subside once our 2nd cookie cookbook is finalized!
I got sick at 20Books too – a LOT of people did, as I understand. I hope you’re feeling better.
Quote from DAVY (Edgar Pangborn) “Bungfull of salvation and pie”. He knew what he was talking about.
Kris, I’m thankful for all you and Dean do to help writers improve their craft, from your blogs to the course you teach.
I hope you both had a great Thanksgiving.
And plenty of pie.
(I had three kinds: pumpkin, apple, and chess, plus a banana and blueberry pudding pie.)
Chess? And thank you!
It’s a type of custard pie made from buttermilk. Very popular in the south.
Happy Thanksgiving, Kris and Dean – and many more.
This morning I texted with our kids (who had already sent greetings by the time I got some much needed extra sleep), and we reminisced about our family tradition back in New Jersey before everyone left: once the extended family stopped accepting our invitation (too onerous to get to us after a certain age), we created our own: every Thanksgiving, I made the exact kind of pizza dough each of the five of us wanted, and covered it with individual toppings – so that each of us had our own perfect pizza, and ALL the leftovers. To be eaten at will.
Much easier than the husband getting up in the pre-dawn hours to get the turkey started, and far easier for me as the disabled mother – pizza I could do.
We all remember, even though husband and I will at some point eat the takeout our retirement community provided (the less-fearful of covid will gather in Dining), and each child has a family and friends Thanksgiving in a different state.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving down under but every week when I read your blog I give thanks for you. You are an inspiration and a wise soul. I wish I could meet you to tell you in person. but it will probably never happen.
Kia Kaha, Mana Wahine.
(translation: A strong woman of Mana,
Lots of Love)
Oh, thank you, Maureen. I’m honored.
I hope you and Dean have a lovely day together, Kris, and I hope the pies are delicious. Feel better quickly!
I adored my grandmother, too. She taught me how to make The Best Turkey Gravy, among other things. Her opinion of pie: there are two good kinds, hot and cold.
Your grandmother and mine would have gotten along well. ?