I’ve always found it funny that my best friend, who hates pie, is stuck amid thousands of them every Thanksgiving.
I’m reminded of this as I stand in the dark in my driveway, shaking from the cold, as a silver Honda pulls up. I hop in, hoping we’re not going to be late.
Today is the day that my best friend definitely needs to be to work on time, at 6 a.m.
My best friend, Lindsay Leyden, was an only child when I met her back in fifth grade. The following year, her mom remarried, and Lindsay had a new life: a new stepdad, two younger brothers and Twin Pond Farm, the step-family business in Howell, N.J. Lindsay began working there in high school.
Twin Pond Farm is known for its locally-grown produce, a variety of flowers and home-baked pies, which are sold at the garden center, the deli and the farm stand. Though I have spent my teen years working for Lindsay’s stepfamily, I’ve never had the luxury of dealing with the 3,000-pie rush on Thanksgiving.
We arrive at 6:01 a.m. and dash to the kitchen in the garden center; there is no more space in the deli kitchen to bake pies. In the morning’s scramble, Lindsay’s stepdad doesn’t seem to notice we are a minute off.
He barks orders at her and I stand back. I would love to help, but I’ve never worked the Thanksgiving rush, and would probably only mess things up.
In the kitchen, barely big enough for four adults comfortably, Lindsay starts loading apple pies into one of the ovens. All of the pies – more than 3,000 of them – were assembled earlier in the week. Today, the only jobs are to bake, pack and sell the rest of the pies. Lindsay loads another oven with pumpkin pies. The four ovens together can bake 186 pies at once.
For the most part, all the pies take about an hour to bake. Lindsay and her co-workers are able to strategically rotate baking and cooling pies without taking up too much room on the counters.
In the main atrium between shelves of pond products and cash registers, five other workers fret about. One pulls out labeled boxes, and packs the finished pies. The other workers are organizing boxed pies, by type, into 20 neat stacks.
At 7 a.m. Twin Pond Farm opens and a crowd starts to develop. Everyone coming in has an order; walk-ins are rare, because there usually aren’t any pies left.
As I stand in the corner out of everyone’s way, I watch organized chaos come to life. Sometimes Lindsay is in the kitchen placing pies in the oven; sometimes she’s at the register, punching in orders and squeezing boxed pies into plastic bags. I always knew Thanksgiving was hectic here, but never understood the real craziness.
The people who buy these pies may not think about the work that it takes to make one, let alone 3,000 of them. All the workers at Twin Pond Farm are part of this pie tradition, but perhaps not thought about as the customers make their purchases. When these pies are sliced and shared, the workers won’t be a thought, either.
While Lindsay is at the store with her stepdad and uncle, she’s away from her mom, who prepares Thanksgiving dinner by herself.
But while Lindsay isn’t helping her mom cook, a tradition in many households, she has the tradition of working on Thanksgiving, and after four years, she’s good friends with the full-time employees. While running around, she jokes around and shares memories with the other workers; her Twin Pond Farm family, she calls them.
At 1 p.m. the store closes. After a full morning of being immersed in the one dessert she doesn’t eat, Lindsay can’t wait to get out of here. She will go home and help her mom with anything that’s left to be done. As I walk out of the store with her, I can’t help but notice her smile. By baking pies on Thanksgiving, she is a driving force behind an American tradition.