Although no other American families I know include this minty chocolate perfection in their Thanksgiving feast, in my family the holiday is incomplete without it.
It is a crisp November morning. Our sprawling backyard is piled high with crispy orange and brown oak leaves. The house is bustling with excitement, chaos, and joy. In the family room, some of my siblings watch the marching bands and pitchy teen pop singers as they perform under the giant balloons which float down the streets of Manhattan for the Macy’s Day Parade. Other siblings are outside passing the football around preparing for our yearly Turkey bowl. Dad sets the dining room table with our Thanksgiving Day china, the origin of which has always been a mystery to me. Amazing smells waft from the kitchen, filling the house with a festive warmth. Earlier in the week, Mom had divided the recipes among everyone. One by one the stuffing, mashed potatoes, salads, rolls, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, turkey, green beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie, blueberry pie and more were claimed by all of my eager sisters and two or three of my brothers. As I look down at my own stack of recipes, I see the most beloved recipe in my family, the grasshopper pie. Although no other American families I know include this minty chocolate perfection in their Thanksgiving feast, in my family the holiday is incomplete without it.
The recipe for grasshopper pie has been passed down on my Mom’s side of the family for a few generations. I pull out the old blue homemade cookbook my Nana gifted my Mom on her wedding day. The laminated pages are covered with the spills and mishaps of the countless baked goods and meals which have been made under the guidance of the neat, typewritten instructions. I open the fragile binding and turn to one of the most used and thus most smudged pages in the book.
The making of grasshopper pie always stirs up excitement in our kitchen. I finely chop the walnuts and pour in the melted chocolate and butter. I then divide the thick nutty mixture into glass pie pans and press down with my hands to form two thin chocolate crusts. The crusts are filled with the melty marshmallow cream, dyed a vibrant mint green from six heaping tablespoons of creme de menthe. The minty cream billows out into the pans and smells absolutely divine with the chocolate and nuts. Overnight the marshmallow filling sets, so that on the day of our Thanksgiving feast when the pies are cut, the delicious green center slices into satisfying perfect pieces of pie.
Although this recipe is not on the list of traditional Thanksgiving food, to each person in my family the chocolate-mint gooey perfection will always remind us of the wonderful memories made during past November feasts. This pie has been eaten around my grandparents’ and now parents’ dining room table for decades. It is accompanied by a slice or two of pumpkin pie and a steaming cup of black coffee. It has been enjoyed during countless conversations and laughs. Usually, after we have all recovered from the huge meal and have retired to the living room sofas and chairs to hold our bellies and laugh some more, someone breaks out the pies again and we all dig into another round of dessert while playing a game of Pictionary or Mafia. I find it amazing how even just the smell of creme de menthe can evoke such strong emotions of nostalgia, contentment, and joy in me. It is incredible how this odd, yet delicious, little recipe has unified my family. And I have no doubt that each of my siblings and cousins will pass this recipe down to their children because Thanksgiving simply is not Thanksgiving without the vibrant mint green grasshopper pie on the table.