CSotD: Pumpkin pie and other tests

In the Vanishing Skills Department, today’s Grand Avenue suggests that nobody in the chain of cartoonist-to-editor-to-syndicate knows how to bake a pumpkin pie.

There was a time, consarn it, when a young fellow looking for a wife was asked if she could bake a cherry pie. We used to sing “She can bake a cherry pie, if you eat it, you will die” but I don’t suppose anyone under a thousand years old even knows that old song, much less parodies of it.

Today, young men of character look for a lot more than baking skills in a wife, but we seem to have stopped asking girls to learn this stuff without demanding it of men. I’ve long felt both Home Ec and Shop should be required for all junior high students. Well-rounded people need a well-rounded set of skills.

But, alas, O Best Beloved, it seems nobody knows how to bake a pie, cherry or pumpkin, or someone in that chain of comic production would have known that pumpkin pie is made from the shell, not the guts.

I doublechecked to make sure of that, and found these uses for pumpkin guts, which seem to bring thrift to the level of obsession.

I also doublechecked on something I already knew, which is that the canned pumpkin used by about 98% of people who make their own pumpkin pies does not come from the kind of pumpkins we carve.

That’s a lot of research for someone who prefers sweet potato pie. Most folks I know who buy canned pumpkin feed it to their dogs to cure diarrhea.

And, admittedly, while I can cook, I’m no baker. Still, as Dr. Johnson said in defense of critics, “You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables.”

Though he also praised Elizabeth Carter, saying “My old friend Mrs. Carter could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek.”

Not that she was looking for Billy Boy to come a-courting; she never married. That’s how smart she was!


Speaking of scary-smart women, this Greg Kearney cartoon brought to mind an afternoon I spent with then-Senator Olympia Snowe as she walked around talking to merchants in downtown Farmington, Maine, and she may well be the smartest person I’ve ever met, whipping out solid facts and figures and insights on whatever random topics they brought up, while cracking jokes in droll Yankee manner.


I don’t know if she can bake a pie, but she had the good manners and political savvy to buy a loaf of bread at the local café/bakery.

After her walk around town, we had a conversation about bringing broadband access to rural areas and she said she considered it both an issue of economic development and personal safety on a par with the national decision to bring electricity to the whole country back in the 1930s.

We didn’t, she reminded me, demand that individual farmers bear the cost of this expansion. It was accepted as a necessity which society was required to make happen.

That was 15 years ago and, as Kearny points out, we’re still floundering around over it.

Snowe was also smart enough to walk away from the Senate in 2012 and let Angus King pound his head against the wall in her place.


Oh well. As Ben points out, we still live in a world of “Garbage In, Garbage Out,” and even where there is good access, there’s plenty of poor implementation.

I’m not joking when I wonder if the people in the tech department at some companies ever talk to the people in their own marketing department, and if their CEOs ever visit the website at all.


This Reality Check also takes me back to my days in Maine, but for a totally other reason.

My office window looked out across the road to a grove of trees in summer.

In winter, it looked out on leafless trees and across a small stream to an autobody shop, and I say “leafless trees” rather than “bare trees” because they were revealed to be festooned with long streamers of blue plastic that had once protected new fenders and hoods and such. The view was not good for my blood pressure.

As for plastic grocery bags, Vermont has done away with them, but we still have them on this side of the river, although in either state you can bring your own cloth bag.

I wouldn’t mind plastic bags if they were higher quality, but the flimsy things not only blow away but leak and so have virtually no second purpose, unlike paper bags in which you can dredge chicken or with which you can cover school books.

And paper can be sustainable. When I was in Maine, the loggers I knew all worked responsibly without complaining about it, and our local paper mill lost a major contract producing high-quality finished paper for the LL Bean catalogs because, while its timber sources were harvested sustainably, they had failed to properly document the fact.

Boy, that’ll learn ya.


And this Between Friends (KFS) reminds me of every place I’ve worked, though the specific focus is on middle-aged Susan adapting to life in an office of Gen-Z’s.

In the last large office I worked in, I was also surrounded by women under 30, but they were Millennials, so they exercised on their own time and, in the office, were chiefly concerned with whipping up smoothies, which, in case you’ve wondered, don’t blot up easily when spilled on carpeting.

The women who put on tennis shoes and went striding off over lunch hour were in the 35-45 bracket, and what made me marvel was that they could come back in 45 minutes later, switch back into pumps and not only look crisp but not stink the place up.

I guess the old saying is true: Women glow, men perspire, horses sweat.

The line between perspiration and sweat being largely theoretical.


To end on a serious note, I’m no fan of maudlin, cliché-ridden obituary cartoons, but I greatly admire the sincerity of Steve Bright’s simple, tasteful tribute to his fellow Scot, Robbie Coltrane.


8 thoughts on “CSotD: Pumpkin pie and other tests

  1. Not only did I learn the song in school, when Albert told Pogo, “That’s a pie what I can fry quick as you can blink a eye, cherry boy,” I got the reference.

  2. Living in a area that charges for plastic bags (8 cents) I noticed they started using thiker bags that can be reused around the house for small trash can liners. While expensive for trash can liners it makes me feel OK when I have to pay 8 cents for a bag.

  3. Typical cheapo plastic garbage bags do have one secondary use. They’re quite good for used cat litter. After you’ve checked the bag to make sure it isn’t punctured, of course, before putting it in the waste basket.

  4. I just learned of the song. My favorite pie to always bake has been berry pie or cheesecake. Crusts are hard to make but with a little practice it’s getting easier.

  5. I’ve long said that CEOs should be forced to their own shopping and open their own packaging. Then we’ll do away with that abomination called blister packaging. Also, in my country, the long life milk that can only be carried with two hands and requires a separate trip to the car.

  6. The flaw in wishing CEOs had to live like the rest of us is that they always know they can buy their way out of it or just hold tight until the experiment is over.

    Best part of “Sullivan’s Travels” is that, between shaking the studio crew following him and then losing his shoe, he suddenly finds himself truly trapped with no escape route. Brilliant film, but fiction, alas.

    Though I do wish some publishers had to visit their websites with their mothers and daughters looking over their shoulders and explain why they have semi-porn clickbait in the sidebar.

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