Vegan Pumpkin Pie and a Celebrated Life


A celebration. A celebration of life no matter how brief. A celebration of life because the alternative is a contemplation of loss and the extraordinary sadness that accompanies it.

Five years ago on this day, a special soul left our family and this earth. She was 19. An artist, a musician, a budding chef, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend. There wasn’t a funeral, instead a Memorial Mass and Celebration of Life.

We had only just moved back to Sydney weeks earlier but there was no question about what needed to be done, so we headed back around the world to family.


I’ve struggled with how to write this post for a long time. How to express the feelings going through my head and heart, how to encapsulate a life that left a mark on everyone it came in contact with, and how to do it in a way that honours what she stood for. As with most things I do, it manifested through food – and for A it would have to involve pie.

Pumpkin Pie was her signature and made from a classic recipe. These days most people in our family are eating a bit differently to how we did back then, but we are still entirely unwilling to forgo the foods that define our holidays together. For many family members it is about being unprocessed and ensuring the absence of most allergens – although ironically, wheat, eggs and nuts, while not included in this recipe are not an issue for anyone.

So in A’s honour, a creation that we can all enjoy – a no egg, no dairy, no soy, no gluten, no nuts, no corn, no refined sugar, Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Dressed up for a Christmas celebration of life.


I’ve not yet been able to visit the Butterfly Garden dedicated in her name, but every time I see a colourful creature flitting through the air I think of her. I know her absence does not get any easier for her little sisters or her parents – or any of us for that matter – as time ticks along.

I wish I could have witnessed her impact on this world as she grew up. I wish she could see her sisters – the opera singer and the photographer – turning into amazing strong women. I wish I could cook with her again.


So instead I’ll bake pie and ask you to consider one of her wishes – that everyone would register to be a bone marrow doner, and give blood and platelets to help others suffering with leukemia. And I wish you a peaceful holiday with your loved ones.

Fly high beautiful girl, we miss you.




  1. says

    What a beautiful and moving post JJ. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to lose someone so close to me, but through your story I have… Love the celebratory tone of the farewell although there’s a tear of sadness in my eyes too. Lovely recipe – I’m sure A is smiling down at you right now.

  2. cathe hayes says

    Thank you Jen for sharing your heartfelt message in the special way that only you can do. A huge hug to you xo

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing the recipe to this lovely pie – it was delicious!

    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your dear A – from the picture I can see she was a beautiful young woman and the loss of her must have been unimaginably hard. xox

  4. says

    Touching post JJ! Thanks for sharing A’s story with us. She looks like a beautiful women. I couldn’t agree more with her wish, I wish everyone could donate something that we simply take for granted. Sending big hugs to you and your family

  5. says

    Such a lovely post JJ… though I’m so sorry to hear about A. I just wanted to say how much I identify with the manifestation of feelings through food… I felt the same when my grandma passed away last month. My memories of cooking with her will always be most precious. Big hugs to you and your family.

  6. Laura Botelho says

    You have captured so beautifully the feelings of those of us who were lucky enough to know A. Thank you for such a moving tribute and a special Christmas gift we can make in her honor.

  7. says

    A beautiful post JJ, thanks for sharing. We also lost a much loved family member to leukemia on his 20th birthday, so I share your pain at such a loss.

  8. Joanna says

    I don’t know if you’ll even see this nearly two years later. But, I was looking for a vegan pumpkin pie and my search met your post. Sitting here with tears in my eyes, I can feel your pain as my little girl, Annie(7,) lost her battle with cancer just three years ago this month. She has two older sisters. I’m so sorry for your pain, I don’t think us mommas ever get over it! I might just have to make this recipe not only because it looks great, but because of the reason it was created to begin with. Sharing the loss of our precious “A’s”.

    • JJ says

      Oh Joanna I’m so sorry to hear about your precious little girl. I know my aunt, uncle and cousins still feel the loss of their A every day, but with time they’ve found ways to honour and celebrate her life and passions. Hugs to your family. xx ~ JJ

  9. Louise Schwendeman says

    But for failing to set my first attempt came out OK. I just had to go ahead and bake it to get it to set up. My pumpkin may have needed to drain quite a bit more before pureeing.

    • JJ says

      Hi Louise, not sure what happened if the ingredients and method were the same as above… actually not sure why it would set in the oven and not from cooking the custard on the stove! Why was the pumpkin draining? Did you boil it or steam/roast?

  10. Erin Rose says

    Who knew a pumpkin pie recipe could make one cry? Blessings to you and your family as you remember your beautiful girl in 2015. She may not be with you now, but she is still touching hearts.


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