Celebrating Thanksgiving with our Pumpkin Pie challenge

By: Dave Gunner

November 24, 2016

Harold and Don get tasting.

Harold and Don get tasting.

We want to wish a very happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends, family, colleagues and customers .  To everyone at Virgin Atlantic and Delta and all our partners who are working at our airports or onboard today and tonight. Thank you for all you do.  Although we’re a British airline, we’re getting into the Thanksgiving spirit through the humble pumpkin…

As our name suggests, we fly across the Atlantic a lot. We like to think that we’ve brought America and the UK closer together, but we’ve failed when it comes to pumpkin pie. Revered in the United States and Canada, we’re not sure why it so rarely turns up on the UK dinner table. The UK normally embraces all things American and pumpkins are widely available in the UK at this time of year (thanks to our love of Halloween).

Don's wife's traditional pumpkin pie

A traditional Pumpkin Pie, cooked by Don’s wife Sooz

So why has the humble pumpkin pie been passed by? Maybe it is to do with the perception that you can’t have a pudding made with a vegetable. Perhaps people are put off by its brown-ness. The truth of the matter is that pumpkin pie is delicious and we’d like to see more of it in the UK.

Americans abroad

Don Langford, Virgin Atlantic’s answer to Paul Hollywood, is our CIO and is currently working on the new technology platform that we implemented early this month. Harold Mann works for Delta and is on secondment at our UK offices working on our Joint Venture.

As Americans living in the UK Don and Harold naturally enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast. The chosen recipe in the Langford house is the one that comes on the back of the ‘Libby’s tin of pure pumpkin’. This is the  most popular recipe that’s enjoyed in millions of American households every Thanksgiving. To challenge the benchmark we have come up with two different takes on the pumpkin pie and invited Don and Harold to give them an American taste test.

The finished pumpkin loaf and pie

The finished pumpkin loaf and pie

Our San Francisco Pumpkin Loaf

This recipe come thanks to Robert O Licea-Wheaton, our Clubhouse Manager in San Francisco. The San Fran crowd always like to do things differently and this is a very unusual use of classic pumpkin pie ingredients. The loaf is quick and easy to make and has all the gorgeous flavours and spices of the original.

We then scoured the internet for a recipe that we could bake to impress our American friends and came across this recipe for the ‘Perfect Pumpkin Pie’ in the Guardian. That’s quite a claim. The pie was the most complicated to make, casting aside premade pastry cases and using real pumpkin instead of the usual tinned product.  Was it worth the effort? What did our resident experts think?

Our star baker Robert Licea-Wheaton at the San Francisco Clubhouse

Our star baker Robert Licea-Wheaton at the San Francisco Clubhouse

So what was the verdict?

The loaf was the star of the show. Both Don and Harold loved the loaf and rated it above the pie. Harold thought it was very original and had great texture and flavour. Don said he hadn’t seen or tasted anything like it before and loved the colour. He then cut himself an extra slice to take home.

The Pie. The pumpkin pie split the jury. Harold thought it lacked pumpkin flavour and was strongly spiced, whereas Don liked it for the same reasons. Both were very complimentary about the texture especially as it had been made with raw pumpkin.  Don was was very careful to mention that he couldn’t be seen to be preferring this pie to his wife’s. We understand.

Our favourite thanksgiving facts

More Americans and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving than Christmas. It has parades in the big cities, the president sparing a turkey or two and special sports events. It also gave birth to the one part of the festivities that has recently crossed the Atlantic – Black Friday sales.

The very first Thanksgiving meal is thought to have taken place in 1621 when the pilgrims shared a meal with the local Native Americans. The previous harvest had failed but 1621 was, in contrast, a bumper yield. It is believed that pumpkin, or squash, might have been on the menu but not turkey.  Talking of turkeys, this article about how the bird got its name is our fave turkey trivia.

The traditional recipe as used by Mrs Langford:

pumpkin pie recipe

pumpkin pie recipe


Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.

Categories: Our Experience