The idiom popped into my mind a few days ago and departs not: Now eat your humble pie. It is something my dad would say, surely. After hearing it in my mind over and over, it was time to research. What is humble pie?
Humble pie derived from a pie eaten in medieval times from “nombles” (French for deer innards) and evolved into “ombles” perhaps from the English blending “a nomble” into “an omble.” Around the same time period, the word “humble” emerged. Before long, what was a nomble pie became an omble pie became an ‘umble pie (often the English drop the h in pronunciation) which brings us to: a humble pie.
The deer innards (liver and heart) were often given to the servant who hunted for the nobleman. You guessed it: the nobleman always got the tasty venison and usable hide. No doubt if a stag, the nobleman had the antlered head hanging in his lodge or castle. So the ‘umble servant took home the nombles cum ombles, and with parsnip, potato, onion and pastry the dish was edible enough for commoners. As standard fare for the poor and lowly through the 16th century, this pastry of deer offal became known as humble pie.
Humble means to have a modest or low opinion of oneself. The root, from Old French and Latin, is humilis: low or lowly and humus: ground. To eat humble pie has come to mean that one makes humble apology and accepts humiliation. It is to this latter aspect that this hermit is reminded, repeatedly, prior to Thanksgiving: Eat your humble pie. The reason is too much to go into here, but a humble pie of humble making is my just and due dessert. In fact, it is my portion and cup this Thanksgiving, a veritable meal in itself.
No deer innards nor meat of any kind to be found in this hermitage. (Humble pie recipes now use chopped steak–not seemingly ‘umble at all!) But I did have a large pumpkin purchased at Menard’s on clearance for $2.75. I chose the brightest orange color and heaviest by estimate to maximize the good deal. Stabbing the pumpkin all about with a knife, it is baked in a roasting pan with an inch of water, 330°, until soft by knife-point prick. Remove pumpkin seeds, scrape the “meat”, and blend. I came out of this deal with 15 cups of fresh cups of pumpkin puree=18¢ per cup, plus some oven electricity cost, but baked other stuff simultaneously.
How to Make Joyful Hermit’s (or your) Humble Pie:
Cut in shortening with flour until crumbles (rhymes with numbles). Add cold water, form into ball, refrigerate 5 minutes, then roll out on floured surface and place into pie tin.
Humble Pie Innards: 4 small eggs, 3 c. pureed pumpkin, ½ c. or less (unwanted, old) fruit jam, ½ c. soy or milk, 1-2 tsp. spices (I used an Indian mix of cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and black pepper as it looked the most dirt-like).
Beat eggs first, then mix in pumpkin, jam, and spices. Add milk last so as to adjust liquidity; keep it modestly thick. Pour into unbaked pastry shell and bake at 350° for 45 min. to an hour. Provides enough for two humble pies or the excess baked in oiled ramekins. Now, eat your Humble Pie!