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The History of Pumpkin Pie

Today we are delving into the history behind a Thanksgiving classic: pumpkin pie! Pumpkins were first cultivated in Central America around 5,500 B.C. They were introduced to England and Europe when explorers brought samples back with them and began to grow them at home. In fact, the first mention of pumpkins in Europe dates to 1536. Pumpkins quickly became part of England’s existing pie-making culture, so by the time the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in 1620, they were likely already familiar with pumpkins and pumpkin pie. It’s also likely that pumpkin – in some form or another – was present at the first Thanksgiving. Amelia Simmons’ 1796 cookbook, American Cookery, included two pumpkin pie recipes, and by the 18th century, pumpkin pie had become an important part of Thanksgiving, which was itself well-established as a regional New England holiday. During the Civil War, many abolitionists from New England made mention of pumpkin pie in novels, poems, and broadsides. Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, making Thanksgiving (and pumpkin pie along with it) a national affair for the first time. Pumpkin pie gained additional notoriety thanks to multiple write-ups in women’s magazines. Then in 1929, Libby’s introduced a line of canned pumpkin that made baking pumpkin pies easier than ever before, further cementing the dessert’s place at the Thanksgiving table.

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