When I was growing up, we were absolutely a meat-and-potatoes family, and I mean that almost exclusively. The most exotic meal we would get was a taco casserole every now and then.
So when I went to college, I had a lot of culinary exploration to do to catch up. I loved trying cuisines I had never eaten before — sushi, Mediterranean falafel, pad see ew at the nearby Thai establishment. There were so many new things to be consumed!
It wasn't until recently that I even had my first go at Indian, but I immediately fell in love with the intense, signature spices used in Indian foods. I think I had coconut curry chicken every day for like a week at one point. However, I stayed at my dad's place over the summer, and my curry-making progress hit a roadblock.
See, my dad does not like "ethnic" food. To him, Mexican food is exotic (hence the happy medium of taco casserole). When we order Chinese food, he just orders sweet and sour chicken, but instead of using the sweet and sour sauce, he just eats the chicken, which I'm pretty sure is just fried chicken nuggets. So, he definitely did not like Indian food, especially that wonderful lingering smell that making it leaves behind.
When I wasn't sneakily making tikka masala while he was at work (after stocking up on Febreeze to cover my tracks — because there's nothing like the mixture of lavender and curry), I experimented with ways to incorporate Indian spices into non-traditional foods. And when fall rolled around, I realized that so many of these spices paired so well with the seasonal foods — oh, the squashes, breads and soups! So, chai spice pumpkin pie was born, and the rest was a no-brainer.
Side note: One of the things I was most excited to make for this recipe was whipped cream using coconut milk. However, apparently it's a bit tricky to make this anymore, as many brands of coconut milk now use an ingredient called guar gum, which is a stabilizer that makes it impossible to whip. I went to four different grocery stores trying to find guar gum-less coconut milk, but alas, no luck. So, I settled on coconut extract and shredded coconut as a garnish. Maybe you'll have better luck. Report back.