Pumpkin Pie Women

Coming home from the supermarket, laden with cans of pumpkin and condensed milk, listening to the cheekily wonderful tune, Thou Swell, Thou Witty, Thou Grand, which Rodgers and Hart collaborated on in 1927.

The girls are coming to my kitchen – the women, the college women, to spend an afternoon producing pumpkin pies. It’s golden and smoky around the cabin,  warm and cozy inside.

golden cabin

We’re trying to raise money for a trip to Senegal in May, Maud tells me, cutting the butter into the flour, cracking a dozen eggs. BuildOn, the organization chapter she runs at Columbia, travels to other countries to build schools.

maud w eggs

It’s this times three, right, says Jess, her school buddy, intent on the recipe.


We’re baking six pies for Maud’s campus bake sale tomorrow, to be sold by the slice. Lots of cinnamon, lots of ginger, lots and lots of canned pumpkin.

You are so graceful, goes the lyrics of Thou Swell: Have you wings?/You have a face full of nice things.

Pumpkin is the simplest pie, the easiest to please. Like pudding, nice and sweet. Almost as sweet as these two at the kitchen table.

maud and jess

Each person has to raise $2,000, says Maud. We have $275 so far. That’s okay, she’s easy. At Fall Fest a bunch of other organizations will get together and raise money for her group. They do that, help each other out.

We’re also collecting dresses on campus and giving them to a consignment shop – we get sixty percent of the profit, says Maud.


So we need six teaspoons, says Jess. People die from overdosing on cinnamon.

Jess is a fan of buildOn, though her own time is spent as the treasurer of a new group called Scientista, which promotes women in, you guessed it, the sciences.

They’re so busy, these women. They dig in to everything. If you’re the first person to contribute fifty dollars or more to buildOn this season, you’ll get a free copy of Walk in Their Shoes, by Jim Ziolkowski, the president of buildOn, which tells the story of founding the outfit. Maud’s staying home this year but she’s still raising money.

Both thine eyes are cute too;

What they do to me.

Hear me holler I choose a Sweet lollapaloosa in thee.

How do they manage it all? Jess: You’re doing something wrong if you’re not rushing around doing xyz.

This is a vat, says Maud, stirring.


There’s some swooning over old Gavin deGraw, Chariot, and amazement at the tale of a friend he plucked off the concert floor.

Some bemoaning of chipped nail polish.

Crimping uncooperative pie dough isn’t in the customary lesson plan, but they make do pretty well.


People have different love languages, Maud says, quoting some psychologist.

Six pies go in the oven.

oven pies 1

I’m going to bake a pumpkin pie when I go home next, says Jess, My mom’s going to freak out.

Thou swell, thou witty, thou grand.


Filed under Cooking, Culture, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Music

4 responses to “Pumpkin Pie Women


    “For me, it makes perfect sense.” For me, too. Cheers! (Just read what seems to be a new preface to your blog… thanks for what you do!)

  2. Hack Attack

    Got to go with Sarah Vaughan on this one:

  3. Don’t forget the lollapaloosa.


    So sweet: the girls, their youth, the pies, the event.
    And Maud’s Mom: Thou swell, thou witty, thou grand.

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