Autumn is my favorite time of year. The season bestows a sense of peace and thankfulness. Brisk walks through the woods on a clear blue sky day among the red, gold and orange leaves are rejuvenating for the soul. As Albert Camus wrote: “autumn is spring where every flower is a leaf.” I never rush winter because there is too much to enjoy about autumn. For me, the crisp autumn breeze carries a spectacular palette of colored leaves along with a heavy dose of nostalgia.
One of the best parts of autumn are the traditions surrounding the exceptional seasonal food. One of my autumn favorites is pairing warm boiled peanuts with an ice cold Coke on football game days. It cannot be forgotten that autumn is home to apple season, pumpkin season, peanut season, sweet potato season, and squash season. This also means it is time for many types of popular pies.
For the last several years I have helped my wife cook two pies for Thanksgiving dinner: apple and pumpkin. This recent fall tradition was born out of an online contest. My wife won a pie making set from an Instagram influencer named Stacie Flinner. We have shared these pies at Thanksgiving gatherings with both sides of our family.
My cooking skills are close to non-existent, mostly limited to grilling outside and heating up leftovers in the microwave, so the pie making process was completely foreign to me. I generally feel like a “stranger in the strange land” in the kitchen, but I embraced (at least some parts) of the pie making process. My wife supervises the project and ensures that we get the correct ingredients in the correct amounts. My favorite part of the pie making process is peeling apples. We have an apple peeler that lets me spin the apples while a blade quickly removes the peels. I also like using leaf shaped cutters to make decorative leaves out of the extra pie crust.
Even under supervision, I am still not particularly good at cooking, but that’s not the point. The point is to embrace a tradition that celebrates the Thanksgiving season. Building positive traditions requires us to be intentional, but the effort is worth it. Traditions provide a sense of belonging and meaning. Honoring traditions is one of the best ways to link our past with our present. Memories of past years come flooding back to us.
Author Susan Lieberman states that: “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” Traditions keep us grounded in an ever changing world. If you think about how much modern life changes, it is good to have traditions to embrace.
We live in a world of change. The weather changes. Technology advances. Politicians come and go with every passing election. It is easy to feel alienated when things change. The last two years have seen an abundance of change. Both locally and across the world, we have seen too much sickness, death, anger, hate, sadness, and grief. If you think about how much life changes, it is good to have traditions to embrace.
Of course traditions slowly evolve and change over time, and that is perfectly normal. Our situations and tastes change over time. I think one year we will modify our pie tradition and make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving. It is too hard to ignore that time honored southern favorite. Pecan pies are linked to the South, with their sweet gooeyness, crunchy texture and warm flavor of toasted chopped pecans, with a golden flakey crust.
Speaking of old traditions, it is worth noting Thanksgiving is home to one of our state’s oldest and best traditions: the Battle for the Golden Egg. This year is the 118th matchup between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. This year I will be watching the game while enjoying a slice of homemade pie.
Keith Ball is a local attorney and a lifelong resident of the Friendly City.