Dixie Peach: Sharing the Good Stuff

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sharing the Good Stuff

Many Southern women claim that they learned to cook at the feet of their mothers and grandmothers. In a sense that's true for me as well - my mother taught me a great deal about cooking - but her knowledge did not come from her own mother. In a round about way it came from my paternal grandmother - the one who died in 1931 a few months before my mother was born.

My maternal grandmother was not a great cook. She wasn't terrible but cooking wasn't one of her talents. My mother readily attests to this. I remember her being pretty good with baking pies and cakes and she was pretty good with canning but as for regular meals, she just didn't have it. I haven't eaten anything cooked by my grandmother since - well, probably since I was in college - and I remember her cooking always being sort of mushy and somehow never tasting quite right. When we visited my grandparents I mostly remember my grandmother doing prep work but the real cooking was done by my mother and her sisters. At the time I'm sure I thought it was just them pitching in to help but now I think it was their way of making sure my grandmother didn't make anything funky tasting. It's not her fault though. My grandmother was six years old when her mother died and she evidently just didn't have anyone to really show her the Southern cooking ropes.

When my mother married my father she wasn't much of a cook either and so she ended up learning to cook from one of my father's much-older sisters, Irene. My paternal grandmother died when she gave birth to my Aunt Cora and since Irene was nearly grown she and one of the other older sisters helped raise both my father and Aunt Cora. Aunt Irene claimed that my grandmother was a fabulous cook and she learned from her and then passed it on to my mother and Aunt Cora and Aunt Irene's daughter, Wanda. It's no wonder that to me their cooking tasted an awful lot alike, although I have to say Aunt Cora could always beat my mother at baking biscuits.

What I love about families is the tradition of teaching younger generations how to cook and sharing recipes. Some of my favorite recipes are ones that came from my mother or my aunts or cousins. I learned some of my Southern cooking skills from Southern Living and church cookbooks but the best ones are the ones passed down to me from my kin and now I'll pass one on to you. This is the recipe for my cousin Wanda's chocolate meringue pie. Everyone in my family loves Wanda's chocolate pie. We all love her chocolate pie so much that when we speak of her we always say "She made the best chocolate pie!".


2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Warm milk in a saucepan. Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Add enough of the warm milk to the dry ingredients to moisten them and pour all back into saucepan with rest of milk and stir well (I like to use a wire whisk). Heat mixture until begins to thicken. Add some of the hot mixture to egg yolks and stir well. Pour yolk mixture into saucepan mixture and cook until becomes a pudding consistency. Add butter and vanilla and stir. Pour into a browned pie shell and cover with meringue (Click here if you need to know how to make meringue) . Bake at 400°F until meringue is golden. Let cool completely before serving.

As much as our family loves Wanda's chocolate pie, this pie has been the cause of some family strife. Once my sister made a chocolate pie and she, my BIL and my nephew ate about half of it. The next day she had a horrible day at work and she couldn't wait to get home because she knew a piece of Wanda's glorious chocolate pie would improve her dark mood. Sister arrived home to see my BIL eating the last piece of the chocolate pie. My brother had come by earlier and ate about half of the leftovers and my BIL went ahead and polished off the rest. Bad move because a cranky woman cheated out of chocolate pie is a formidable foe. She freaked out for hours over it. About six months later when my sister and BIL were in Germany visiting me my BIL inadvertently mentioned the chocolate pie incident and she went into orbit all over again as if it has just happened. But it's cured my BIL for good. If it were to save his life, he still wouldn't take the last piece of chocolate pie without express permission from Sister.

Enjoy. And share the last piece with your family.

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Anonymous becky said...

Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful story and the recipe! Do I have need to be nervous about making meringue? I'm a culinary doofus.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

You could always do as I do sometimes - I'm not very fond of the taste of meringue so sometimes I'll skip it and put whipped cream or Cool Whip on it instead.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Sugar Fluff said...

Hey Dix, you know I'm not so great in the kitchen. Do you think I should give this pie a try?

I think I could maybe make the pie, the only problem I see so far is the sharing.

Love you.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Sugar Fluff said...

Oh and I get all happy when you post about Aunt Cora. God love her. Aren't you so thrilled she's a part of your life.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

I definitely think you should give this recipe a try. If you follow the directions I think you'll do just fine.

You know I think I'm the luckiest thing around because I've got Aunt Cora in my life. I'm so glad you got to meet her.

9:36 PM  
Blogger purplepassion said...

I am SO making this pie. I had actually forgotten about chocolate pies. My mother tried her hand at it after we had it at a friend's house. Instead of just asking fo rthe recipe she found one with made Jello Chocolate Pudding. It was horrid! We teased her FOREVER about it.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

purplepassion - I think you'll like this pie. To me it doesn't taste overly sweet. Definitely not like Jello pudding!

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Made the pie yesterday- it was great!
For the first time, my meringue came out good.
The chocolate filling reminded me of the homemade pudding we used to make and sort of like the way my Mom used to make us homemade hot chocolate. REALLY yummy! Thanks for sharing.

3:52 PM  
Blogger BranV said...

LOL, cooking must be in the air, I just wrote a whole thing about it. You're posts are making me sentimental! I was lucky to have some wonderful southern style cooks on both sides...but they hated kids to be in the kitchen, so I didn't start until my 20's (those were some scary times). I thought all southern women could cook until I met DH's family. Good lord, who knew you could screw up a broccoli cheese casserole.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

floridagirl - I'm so glad you tried it and so glad you enjoyed it. I have been dying to make one for myself but the weather has been cloudy and humid every day for over a week now and if I tried to make this pie, the meringue would be as flat as can be. I may have to just skip the meringue and use whipped cream because I've been jonesing for this pie!

Brandi - I know you can relate to what I wrote. And aren't you glad you learned how to cook from those that know?

9:38 PM  

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