Vegan Pumpkin Pie and a Celebrated Life

December 9, 2012
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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.

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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.

12-12-07_VeganPumpkinPie

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.

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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.

12-12-07_VeganPumpkinPie

12-12-07_VeganPumpkinPie

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32 Responses to Vegan Pumpkin Pie and a Celebrated Life

  1. Martyna @ Wholesome Cook on December 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

    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.

    • JJ on December 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Marty, I hope she is

  2. Hannah Hayes on December 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    this is beautiful Jen… Al would love it. you are amazing <3

    • JJ on December 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks Han, I’m glad you like it, that means so much <3

  3. Laura (Tutti Dolci) on December 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    What a beautiful tribute! Your vegan pumpkin pie looks so creamy and delicious!

  4. cathe hayes on December 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

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

    • JJ on December 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Big hugs to you too Cathe, really big ones. xx

  5. Christine @ Cooking Crusade on December 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    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

  6. Felicia @ Next Stop: Food on December 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing the recipe – I’ve been waiting for it since the picnic!

    I’m sorry to hear about A, I’m sure this post will make her and her family happy :)

  7. Auntie La on December 10, 2012 at 12:45 am

    Read this to Sophie this morning so she can ‘remember’ A too. Thanks kiddo.

  8. brenda hayes on December 10, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Thanks, Jen. Your words and memories are beautiful, and A’s light glows in all of us.

  9. Katherine Martinelli on December 10, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Such a moving post. Thank you for sharing, both this recipe and the beautiful, emotional story that accompanies it.

  10. Tina @ bitemeshowme on December 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

    What a lovely post JJ. My thoughts are with your family. It’s great to dedicate this post to her, and that vegan pie which is perfect.

  11. Phuoc'n Delicious on December 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

    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

  12. Martine @ Chompchomp on December 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

    As hard as this must have been to write, what a beautiful job. Heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.

  13. muppy on December 10, 2012 at 10:09 am

    So beautiful, you have a wonderful heart.
    I work in diagnosis/prognosis of leukemia.

  14. Julie on December 10, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Oh JJ :( such a beautiful written post and a lovely dedication to her. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  15. Claire on December 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    This is a strong post! Nicely written … It touched me.. Wish you all the best!

  16. mel@crunchytiger on December 10, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    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.

  17. Food is our religion on December 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    such a beautiful post JJ. I didn’t want it to end because I wanted to continue reading. hugs to both you and your family.

  18. Laura Botelho on December 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    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.

  19. Amanda on December 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    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.

  20. Swah on December 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Such a well-written and thoughtful post JJ, it bought a tear to my eye. My mum is currently battling leukaemia, it’s horrible.

  21. Tika Hapsari Nilmada on January 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Hi JJ, thanks for your participation in DMBLGiT January 2013. Wishing you good luck !

  22. [...] like her twist on the traditional US dessert – Pumpkin Pie – that she turned into a Vegan Pumpkin Pie that was no egg, no dairy, no soy, no gluten, no nuts, no corn, no refined [...]

  23. […] Vegan Pumpkin Pie – 84th & 3rd […]

  24. Joanna on October 5, 2014 at 3:33 am

    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 on October 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      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

  25. Louise Schwendeman on October 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    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 on November 28, 2014 at 9:58 am

      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?

  26. sav on November 28, 2014 at 1:26 am

    what is the 1 cup of apple juice for?

    • JJ on November 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

      For the filling, added to the pan in the ‘pumpkin through salt’ step.

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