One mornin' I asked my second grade class to share their recipes for pecan pies. Since they couldn't yet write well, I printed their instructions on my dusty blackboard as they were dictated to me.
This was Jeffrey's recipe for pecan pie:
Big bag of pecans. Shell 'em first or they could hurt.
Cereal bowl full of flour, maybe 8 cups.
2 spoons of sugar
Some water or milk
Salt and pepper
Summa that white stuff; yeah, Crisco. Maybe a teaspoon.
"Stir it all up and put it in that glass dish Mama sometimes makes Jell-O in when the Jell-O dish is dirty. The round one. Then cook it in the oven til the bell rings. About 5 hours.
"Keep lookin' in the oven and if there's black stuff all over the bottom of the oven a-burnin' and a-smokin' then it's done. But don't eat it right away. It can burn the 'far' outta your tongue."
(Maybe his mama was a Proverbs 31 woman who thought, "bringeth her food from afar(a fire)" meant to remove it from the oven as a torched tart. Sort of a burnt offerin'.)
I was Yankee-born but Southern-fed. Lookin' back,when it comes to bakin' pies, Yankees lack imagination.
Need a pie for a church supper? Yankees head straight to their pristine-clean Betty Crocker cookbooks and select "Blah Lemon Pie" or "Who Cares? Apple Pie." It's the same recipe for both. Only the imitation flavorin' is different.
Yankees shouldn't be foolin' around with pecan pies, anyway. They can't even pronounce "pea-cahn" correctly (with the accent on the second syllable). They insist on "pea'-can" (accent on the first syllable). If they can't pronounce it, how can they make a pecan pie that's fittin' to eat?
Pecan pies are made with only two ingredients: pecans and sugar. And lots of it. If half your teeth don't rot and fall out after one piece, it's not Southern pecan pie.
North Carolina law S-69-564-B states that anyone attendin' a funeral must eat pecan pie. Since the bereaved are in mournin' and have no appetite, it falls to friends and neighbors to consume the gargantuan amount of food brought to the home of the newly deceased. Those who brought a pecan pie walk around flippin' slices on everyone's plates, smack on top of the soupy butter beans and creamed corn. The lady who first holds up her empty pecan pie dish wins.
But we Southerners enjoy many kinds of pies dependin' on the occasion. Pork barbecue demands peach cobbler for dessert. A roast beef dinner isn't complete without coconut cream pie. And whoever heard of a Southern breakfast without a big ole fried apple pie along with country ham, scrambled eggs 'n grits?
One Sunday I invited our new pastor, his wife and six other guests to dinner. I'd slaved all day Saturday in the kitchen, marinatin' an eye of round and preparin' "the feast that was meant to impress." (I hoped to make a few points with God, too.)
The dinner was a smashin' success. Compliments and raves made me blush. Just before servin' dessert, I stood to announce with a remarkable lack of humility, "I don't lay claim to a lot of expertise but I make coconut cream pies that French chef Monsieur Frederic Medique would salivate over."
With the exaggerated flourish of Marcel the Magician and a hearty "Ta Da," I plunged my silver pie server into the pie and suddenly felt my heart stop.
Nine pair of eyes were fastened on my pie like Crazy Glue. My coconut cream pie was a milky liquid rather than a firmly-set custard. I had used frozen coconut instead of dried coconut! It was a culinary disaster. My whole life flashed before me. Make my death quick, Lord.
But instantly I recovered with a smile. "What I'm servin' y'all today is a French variation of coconut cream pie called 'Croute Crème De Noix De Clue.' It's so rich it must be eaten with a spoon. Enjoy, enjoy!"
The next time I invited this group over for dinner they all had other plans.
I never knew why.
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