Young brides are often eager to please the in-laws, and I was no different when I decided to cook the prettiest side dish I could find for my new family’s Thanksgiving feast many years ago. After two hours at the public library scouring magazines for the most photogenic foods of the season, I settled on a Seven-Layer Savory Squash Pie. The “chosen,” when dished out into triangular wedges, resembled sand art in harvest colors. I’d never seen a more beautiful dish and was eager to serve it up like the food stylists had, with a golden crust and precision slices.
While I knew at that point in my culinary life that I couldn’t tame the Tom, I was confident that I could craft a glorious plate-mate. It was a vegetable side, after all, with no temperature probes, brining, or basting. How hard could it be?
When the big day arrived, I spent more than three hours peeling, chopping, and par-steaming or roasting a rainbow of squashes, all the while dirtying every dish in my kitchen. At the 11th hour my masterpiece was complete and headed towards the in-laws, dishes stowed in carriers in the trunk. Upon arrival I carried them in like a contestant to the judges’ table, visions of blue-ribbon accolades in my head.
Then the serving line began.
As pretty as my dish looked on its vintage glass plate, its first slice carefully set on a silver pie server, the squash was unimpressive to the rest of the crowd. Cutting apparently required more effort than the hungry mob had time for, so the nearby mashed potato spoon was used to scoop out “that layered stuff” onto plates brimming with grocery-store boxed stuffing and canned-onion-topped French green beans. My heart sank as realized I didn’t even get a photo before it was mussed and fussed beyond recognition. My hours of work were gobbled up before the big game on tv went in to the second quarter.
Today I am much more experienced and can find less labor-intensive ways to wow a crowd. I have somewhat perfected my turkey, and faithfully Instagram, Pin or Tweet my dishes step-by-step in all their cover-worthy glory. Still, I find myself comparing every side dish I’ve subsequently crafted to that pretty pie. Will this be the year I cook this recipe again? Or will the idea be, dare I say it, squashed?
*I have no photos of the dish, nor can I find it online. Visually it’s similar to this one whose author likewise debated re-creating her dish when the technology monsters gobbled IT up.