The purpose of my writing this blog is to share with you all how we do food in the south, using my experiences growing up as a contrast to Francine’s urban homesteading take on things. We’ve taken a bit of a break as Francine has a new consultant position where she is able to put her graphic design and publishing knowledge to good use.
And then there’s me. In the past two months, I’ve had the growing-up experience of watching my beloved mother discover, battle, suffer, and pass away from liver cancer at the age of 56. Time from diagnosis to the end was a little more than six weeks. I’ve spent every non-working moment trying to offer support and give care and help my octogenarian grandmother and a father who doesn’t have the best set of lungs cope with this new change the world has brought upon us.
When I was thinking about how to best write this post in the context of food, I probed my mind for my memories of food involving my mother while growing up, and the one outstanding and earliest memory I have is being told I played in the cabinets as a toddler and removed all the pots and pans and spoons and pretended to be cooking. I remember being fed salty pieces of fried pork fat while she was preparing green butter beans cooked together with fluffy white rice.
“Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.” ~Emily Dickinson
I also remember chocolate pie. I mastered the art of making this pie during college, and during the time spent with family and friends after her passing, an uncle remarked that there would be no more of this pie to appear at holidays, family gatherings, etc. I was able to put a smile on his face by telling him that yes, it would, indeed appear.
In the south, religion dominates and one can always count on their church family to lend a helping hand and help relieve the burden. We were served no less than four meals by various groups of ladies within my mother’s church. Funeral food is comfort food and is your typical church picnic stuff. There was baked ham, barbecued pork with that vinegar-based sauce, mounds of fried chicken, mac and cheese, greens, sweet potatoes, biscuits, gallons of sweet tea, and of course, side tables full of desserts. Earlier I wrote that a southern woman’s reputation is based on her specialty dish–we received several of these. A certain elderly woman’s cream cheese bread was fought over (think a Danish but in a long, flat loaf shape) as was a caramel cake and of course, a banana pudding with whipped cream. No merengue in these parts, y’all.
So, over the next few weeks, as I try and get dad accustomed to providing and caring for himself, I’m sure I’ll be teaching him most of her recipes so that he will be able to prepare many of the meals they shared–a big thick green binder full of food memories awaits us, and that is a comforting thought to me.
Chocolate Merengue Pie
by Jason Osborne, from Mom
makes one regular pie or 10 tartlets
1 cup sugar + 6 tbsp
2 tbsp AP flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp non-dutched cocoa powder
3 egg yolks, whites reserved
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp stick margarine
Pinch of cream of tartar
Blind-bake or prepare packaged pie crust according to directions. Adjust heat to 375 degrees.
Sift 1 cup sugar and the next three ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in milk and egg yolks and whisk well. Transfer the mixture to a large saucier or sauce pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the chocolate mixture thickens. Pour into cooked pie shell.
To prepare merengue, beat three egg yolks in the work bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment with a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly add the reserved 6 tbsp of sugar as the whites begin to form stiff peaks.
Use a spoon to arrange the merengue on the pie, using the back of the spoon to make peaks. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown but not overly dark.