Pi on Pumpkin Pie: A Mathematical Solution To A Cook’s Dilemma

The responsibility for our Thanksgiving meal falls primarily on Terri’s very capable shoulders. I gladly assume the role of sous-chef, which in my case is a highfalutin’ name for a potato-peeler.

But when it comes to the pumpkin pie, I (along with Miss Libby) step up to the plate – pun intended.

I’m not sure how experienced cooks test for pie doneness, but once it stops jiggling, I poke a knife in the center (as per the instructions on the can). If it comes out clean, it’s done. The only problem with this approach is that the knife leaves unsightly slashes in the middle of an otherwise beautiful, unblemished tart.

The solution for this problem comes from the world of mathematics, specifically, the 16th letter of the Greek Alphabet … π. Now your pumpkin pie not only looks delicious, it can be the starting point for a really boring Thanksgiving conversation. I guess this is a whole new twist on “Life of Pi.”

Pumpkin Pie Trivia

According to libbyspumpkinpie.com (yes, there’s a pumpkin pie website) 90% of the pumpkins grown in the United States are farmed within a 80 mile radius of Peoria, Illinois. The town of Morton, close to Peoria, is claimed to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World.

Libby´s uses Dickinson Pumpkins, not the standard jack-o-lanterns in their canned pumpkin.


Why did the Pilgrims eat turkey on Thanksgiving?

They couldn’t get the moose in the oven! 😉

Happy Thanksgiving,

P.S. Terri says, “Welcome to my world.”


Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

75 thoughts

    1. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. I suspect that you don’t have this holiday in your country (Italy?). Is there a big Italian holiday in November? ~James

      1. infatti, anche se ci è ben conosciuta la vostra grande festa del ringraziamento in cui tradizionalmente si cucina il tacchino ( povero, a me dispiace io amo molto gli animali, preferisco che si cucini la zucca! )
        qui in Italia, essendo una nazione molto antica e con moltissime tradizioni regionali, abbiamo dopo l’unità nazionale tre feste riconosciute in novembre, la prima il 1 novembre la festa di Ognissanti, la seconda il 2 si ricordano i defunti andando nei cimiteri, la terza è quella delle Forze armate, il 4 novembre dove a Roma si fa una grande parata nella passeggiata dei Fori Imperiali, in presenza del presidente della Repubblica, con tutte le rappresentanze dell’esercito e degli ausiliari

        in fact, although there is well known your great Thanksgiving when traditionally we cook the Turkey (poor, I’m sorry I love animals very much, I prefer that you cook pumpkin!)
        here in Italy, it is a very old nation and with many regional traditions, we have after the three Parties recognised national unit in November, before the November 1 All Saints Day, the second on 2 remember the dead going to cemeteries, the third is that of the armed forces, on November 4 where in Rome makes a big parade in walk dei Fori Imperialiin the presence of the President of the Republic, with all the representatives of the army and auxiliary

    1. Sue, in my estimation, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the whipped cream fix. But in my case, a bandaid won’t be enough, because I love big mounds of whipped cream. And I consider it a Thanksgiving tradition to shake the can, turn it up, and take a few shots straight in my mouth. That’s until Terri reminds me that if I eat all the whipped cream, I have to go to the store to replace it. Happy Thanksgiving to you both. ~James

  1. Hahaha awesome. You could also put an X, chi, in the foam of your chai latte! Life of Chi, which sounds like it would go well with Life of Pi… mmm chai and pie…

    1. Thanks Sally. Good thinking, I hadn’t thought of chi. Lambda (λ) would work as well. You’ve inspired a great idea. The Greek alphabet as pie fixers. Happy Thanksgiving. ~James

    1. Thanks Cathy. I hope that you’re enjoying a big pumpkin pie as well, and hopefully, the nasty weather didn’t cause any transit problems on the way to grandmother’s house. Happy Thanksgiving. ~James

    1. Thanks Jo. I don’t remember a pumpkin pie tradition in the UK, but I’m sure that there’s some equivalent pie which needs this trick. We’ve been on the road a lot lately, but we’re finally back in Georgia, and it’s very nice to be home. We have gale and freeze warnings on the island, which make it even cozier. Enjoy your Thursday and think turkey. ~James

      1. Is it ok if I think cheese scones, instead, James? I’m out with my walking group this evening for the first of my Christmas meals out, coincidentally 🙂

      2. You have the right idea Jo. A month-long holiday celebration is the way to go. Tell your friends I send Happy Thanksgiving wishes from the other side of the pond. ~James

    1. Thanks Keiry. I suspect that you’ll have a difficult time finding pumpkin pie in Paris, but I’m also pretty sure that you won’t have difficulty finding a delicious substitute. In our travels and expat years, finding ingredients for traditional US holiday foods was always an interesting challenge. Do you have a good source for Kiwi staples in Paris? ~James

    1. Thanks so much Sharon. Finland’s frigid weather must be made for warm, delicious food and cozy family get togethers, so I’m sure there’s a Finnish equivalent of our US Thanksgiving? Have a wonderful day and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well. ~James

    1. Thanks Laura. I think that the image that most Americans have in mind when they think of Thanksgiving originates in the Northeast (pilgrims and all that). So that must put lots of pressure on New Englanders to have a great Thanksgiving. So have a fun, relaxing holiday, and don’t forget the pi. ~James

  2. I usually use a toothpick, rather than a knife, to test doneness. And rather than leave an unsightly hole in my perfect pie, I carve “3.14159265,” using the toothpick hole as the decimal point. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving Terri & James!

    1. Excellent solution Tom. I’m sure that you make the mathematicians in your life proud. BTW, I don’t know if you guys are having turkey, but as a suggestion for leftovers – turkey mole. When we were in Oaxaca, we could buy the greatest mole sauce in the market. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Louise as well. ~James

  3. I love this solution! I use a toothpick. I really wish I’d been able to grow a pumpkin in the Late Bloomer garden that I could cook for a pumpkin pie. THAT would have been an achievement. You can see my sole pumpkin in my upcoming episode of “Late Bloomer.” Happy Thanksgiving! – Kaye PS, Actually, you can get a glimpse of it here in the background. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOOF8UFek1Y&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL7C4BD0DA41DD3FFF – Please watch!

    1. Thanks Kaye. You’re the second person that uses a toothpick. But the big difference between the two of us is that you know how to cook, and I on the other hand, am a culinary stumbler. The Libby’s can said use a knife, and to a rookie like me, that’s the law. I really enjoyed your video, and am amazed how much great stuff you’re able to grow in a small space. Terri tried square foot gardening, and had good results, but nothing like your harvest. As the season ends, will you have fried green tomatoes on the menu? ~James

  4. Now, I thought it was supposed to be pecan pie? Is that a regional thing? I’ve only experienced Thanksgiving in the southern US (I grew up in England) – but you’re in the south right now…. Color me confused. Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

    1. Historically Kathy, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival. So in that sense, it could be pumpkin or pecan. I love both, but pecan pie is almost pure sugar. Pumpkin isn’t so sinful and I can have a bigger piece. And FYI (I’ll probably start a blog war here), I don’t know what you’ve heard, but it’s pronounced puh-CAHN, not that nails-on-the-chalkboard pee-CAN. Just so you know. Have a nice Thanksgiving. ~James

  5. My only request for thanksgiving dinner in Puerto Vallarta yesterday, James, was that we go out to a restaurant that was offering pumpkin pie. I’ll remember your greek reference and use it at some time in the future… 🙂 –Curt

    1. If you like pumpkin pie Curt, buy a can of Libby’s pumpkin pie filling and a frozen pie crust, follow the directions and you’re there. And with the π (or λ) solution, you’ll be the life of the party. I hope you guys found some punkin’ pie and had a great Thanksgiving. ~James

      1. I am lucky James that Peggy spoils me with pumpkin everything at this time of the year. 🙂 I get pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin muffins, etc until I am pumpkin-ed out, which really doesn’t happen! –Curt

  6. Pumpkin Pi – I love it! If I may, I will add: Why did the pilgrims bring handbags to America? To help them escape purse-ecution. (My wife prays for my being forgiven.) – Mike

    1. Good one Mike. This is a good contribution, because up until now I didn’t know a single Thanksgiving joke. I suspect that turkeys and pumpkin pie are thin on the ground in Croatia, but I’m sure that you guys found a good substitute. Have a nice holiday. ~James

  7. A wonderful idea…pumpkin pi! I will no longer be able to make a pumpkin pie without adding this symbol. 🙂 Now if I could only get my husband to bake the pie, that would really be sublime. 🙂

    1. LuAnn just tell Terry that if he wants to do something easy that makes a big splash at Thanksgiving that he should bake a pumpkin pie. My sister-in-law and I are PP hounds, and we have both experimented with different recipes. And we both agree that the best recipe is the one on the back of the Libby’s can. If I can do it, anybody can. ~James

  8. Oh, your pi pie looks so darn good. I hope you use genuine whipped cream, not the fake stuff?

    No Thanksgiving in Australia, but that’s OK, it’s too hot for baking stuff.

    1. Pumpkin pie is one of my favorites, and strangely, I hardly ever have it Yvonne. BTW, I’ve only been to Australia once and don’t remember turkey on the menu. Do Aussies go in for turkey? ~James

  9. Fun pi idea and trivia. My husband just made our homemade pumpkin pies from local pumpkins and maple syrup. YUM! Wonder what he’d do if I snuck up and made a pi symbol on them real quick? 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

    1. Juliann, did you use the Dickinson pumpkins? I was surprised that I’ve been eating pumpkin pie all my life and didn’t know that the Libby pumpkin was a different type. The addition of maple syrup sounds tasty. I’m a Libby’s recipe purist, but this year I read that adding a couple of Ts of rum really makes the pie much better. I was going to try it, and totally forgot. Duh. Have a fun holiday. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Randall, and for dropping by the blog. I always look forward to my annual pumpkin pie, and this year’s was no disappointment. Have a great holiday. ~James

  10. James I think you and Dave share a very similar sense of humor. Terri and I could roll our eyes in solidarity. On a more serious note a friend crashed his car into a moose near Calgary. The moose and car were gone but he came out with just a broken arm. So thankful!

    1. Glad you (and Dave) liked the pi on pie. When we lived in Virginia our house was about 30 miles from town, and driving home at night we lived in constant fear of hitting a deer. It was a common occurrence on that two-lane, curvy road. Given the size difference, I can’t imagine what hitting a moose would be like. Scary business. I’m glad your friend made it out OK. ~James

  11. Now I know why there were such mountains and varieties of pumpkins when I was in Illinois a couple of months ago! Pi’s a good trick for all sorts of pies, thanks for a great idea and Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

    1. That 90% statistic is pretty amazing when you think about it Bea. Imagine all the pumpkins that get consumed each year and most of them originate in Illinois. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. ~James

  12. Happy thanksgiving James and Terri. It has taken me over 30 years living in Canada to start to feel that Thanksgiving belongs in my “holiday psyche”. Growing up in Australia Thanksgiving was a very American idea, and given white Australia’s origins we had little to be thankful for. Until we realized, more than a century later how lucky we are. And I quote:
    Re the whole Monica Lewinsky nonsense: “Thank goodness we got the convicts and they got the Puritans” 🙂
    Re the English sending their criminals to Australia: :Stupid Brits, they consigned us to paradise”.
    My own joke about it is Australians don’t give thanks, we just take it for granted. Which really is a joke, and me being a smartass.
    Have a wonderful day and lots of turkey and pie. (That’s another thing – I will never understand pumpkin pie! ugh!)

    1. Some very funny thoughts here Alison, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a smartass from time to time. For most Americans, Thanksgiving is the kickoff for the year-end holiday season, and people like it because it’s less stressful and demanding than Christmas. And of course, it gives them as excuse to shop. In some circles, Thanksgiving is considered to be the white man’s sanitized version of how we treated Native Americans, but these ideas don’t get much traction for most people. As for pumpkin pie, I’d never thought of it as a acquired taste, but maybe it is. Don’t give up on it though. Maybe you just haven’t had a really good pumpkin pie, but feel free to substitute your favorite. Happy Thanksgiving. ~James

    1. We had a relaxing Thanksgiving Curt, and hope that you and Peggy did as well. We’re working on leftovers and I don’t mind saying that I came up with a new use for leftover turkey for today’s lunch. I made a panini with turkey breast, pesto sauce, and New Orlean’s muffaletta olive salad. It was delish, and If it catches on I’m going to call it a turkpestanini. Remember, you saw it here first. 🙂 ~James

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s