Dear Southern Hemisphere,
Thank you for welcoming me to have Christmas down under (and in South Africa) over the last seven years. I am very grateful for your generosity in hosting me and allowing me to fully experience and immerse myself in a summer Christmas. It has been a true, refreshing delight to see Santas on surf boards and beaches, cars decked out in tinsel, reindeer antlers, and Rudolph red noses, as well as people wearing shorts and T-shirts on Christmas Day whilst barbecuing. Warm weather, “White Sand Christmas” in place of “White Christmas” on my Spotify playlist? Yes, please. “I rather be freezing cold than basking in warmth,” said no one ever.
However, I have a confession, or rather, a complaint to make. In the Northern Hemisphere, I have never really had a problem making pumpkin pie, or most desserts, for that matter. There, I bake in Fahrenheit. I have access to a cold-ish kitchen in the winter time (pro tip: cold kitchen = best pie crusts and anything that has buttery, flaky layers). I have all the necessary tools and guides at my disposal to make my ideal silky smooth pumpkin pie. Here, year after year, things seem to go wrong. Year 1, I discovered that canned pumpkin is not a thing down under. Therefore, there was no pumpkin pie. Then, year 2 and 3, I attempted an all-butter crust for pumpkin pie, and the pie dough was gooey and lumpy. The crust “bled” butter, shrunk, burnt in some places and were raw in others — all the common mistakes of a pie making novice, much to my embarrassment. One year, I had to throw the entire crust out. Southern Hemisphere, why do you fail me? Why can’t you allow me to show my pie crust making skills down here? Now, Chris’s family thinks I just cannot make pie in different environments. On a report card or performance report, they would comment, “Incapable of adapting to change or new environments.” Today, the pie crust was so hard at the rim that we had rip and peel it off the pie pan and discard it. At least the bottom was edible. The part I did try to eat felt like plastic in my mouth, which I immediately spit out.
Then, with the pumpkin custard, we have another issue (because of course, the problems noted above were not enough). The adjustment from Fahrenheit to Centigrade is not exact. 350 degrees Fahrenheit is technically 176.67 Celsius, but there’s no setting that is that exact on a centigrade oven, so you either have to choose: 170 or 180 C? Do you round up or down? I round down, which seems to be the conservative approach. And what ends up happening? The custard doesn’t set in the middle; it never sets in the middle and instead of pumpkin custard, we reveal pumpkin MILK coming out of the oven with pumpkin custard at the edges. WHY?
And for the second round of custard, I round up. What happens? The custard CRACKS, meaning that it has been overbaked. Sure, the custard has set, and it’s no liquidy mess, but it’s no longer pretty to look at. It’s like a reject pie from the pie shop.
So, I’m admitting this now: I have given up on making pumpkin pie, or any pie for that matter, while I am down here. From now on, I will stick with cookies, custards (well, who even knows about that!), and potentially cakes. The battle is over, and you have won. I can’t stand the wasted time and ingredients, so I defer to you. I hope you have a great Christmas knowing you have defeated my pie making down under.