Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grandma's Chocolate Pie.

Possibly a little-know fact among my acquaintances and URL friends: I spent the first ten years of life living in a small tiny town in rural Iowa. My grandparents lived an hour away and we spent most every Sunday eating lunch around my Grandmother’s formal dining table.

We were a humble and casual family, but Sunday lunch {after church, of course} warranted china. Even when fried chicken and mashed potatoes were served. And yes, Grandma fried her own chicken in her little Iowa house kitchen.

It was a quaint little house with two apple trees and a garden in the back yard. It had a basement with a very, very cool laundry shoot {which we clearly used for things other than laundry}. Only two bedrooms and an office. One small hallway bath.

Everything was pristine and spotless in my Grandma's house. Glass trinkets were sprinkled about on low-lying tables. The upholstered sofa was even austere and off-white. Spotless. Absolutely everything was spotless and kids were not permitted to run amuck. But strangely, or surprisingly,  many of my fondest early childhood memories take place in the backyard and in the basement {those were, of course, the only two places we were allowed to truly run and play}. 

We not only spent every Sunday afternoon in their home, but a full week every summer. And the memories of those summer weeks fill my head with a giddiness and innocence I cannot explain. Maybe it was being together as siblings and being forced to play together {no friends nearby}. 

Or maybe it was the simple pleasures we enjoyed together during those times. My brother, sister and I would climb the apple tree and eat the apples until we were sick. It sounds so amazingly clich√©, but it happened. More than once.

My grandpa would take my brother fishing. I must have been deemed to young or too girlie to join in the fishing expeditions, but I will never forget the smell of the fish handing from the line when they returned – fresh and muddy all at the same time.

We played pool in the basement {so cool}. Rode the stationary bike for hours {under a sun/heat lamp}. Played dress-up with clothes and scarves from the 1940s and 50s. Made ginormous forts using every card table and blanket in the house. And generally enjoyed all the old-fashioned charms of growing up in the Midwest in the early 70s.

It was a charming time. Full of innocence, clean living and Grandma’s cooking {which is where I am really going here - in case you were worried, or simply becoming impatient}. 

Grandma's cooking. Ahhh! So many of her recipes swirl around in my head: homemade macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, hot dog sauce {sounds ordinary, but I promise - it's special}, the aforementioned fried chicken, and chocolate pie.

I wish I could recreate each and every one of these delightful dishes. She taught each of them to me over the years. Of course, all the recipes were permanently etched in her memory. And sadly, mine has faded. Recently, however, I ran across a page in one of her cookbooks that looks like this:

Tattered and torn. Taped and dirty. It practically fell out of the three-ring binder 1947 version of the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book and into my hands!

At first I resisted. I worried: what if it's not what I remember? What if I don't make it as well? And then there is the whole issue of a homemade crust. Yikes!

I decided to cut myself a little slack and try the pudding part of the pie first. Focus on the creamy goodness and let Betty Crocker {who is clearly much more experienced than I} furnish the crust. I did, however, buy the pie crusts that you place in your own pie plate. Because I have Grandma's glass pie plate and I figure she'd roll over in her grave if I served it in an aluminum tin. Pie crust properly baked and cooling in Grandma's pie plate, I set off to tackle the creamy pudding filling.

I'd seen her do it a hundred times. Maybe more. I do not even remember her referring to this tattered page when we were making it together circa 1998. But I did. I followed every direction explicitly; leaving nothing to chance.

And it was worth it!

The first bite was pure bliss -- creamy, homemade chocolate goodness. It was everything I wanted it to be and reminded me how wonderfully simple times were during my early years.

This simple chocolate pie reminded me of so many things -- the simplicity that was my Grandma's life. The wholesome goodness of my youth. The pace at which time passes -- to quickly these days in my humble opinion.

Does anyone my age take the time to bake homemade pies anymore {Thanksgiving does not count}?

Well I do. Now, at least.

And next time I'm making my own crust too.

Join me in making the world a better, more wholesome place, one pie at a time {homemade crust optional}:

Grandma's Chocolate Pie
(via Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, scalded
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 - inch baked pastry shell
3 stiff-beaten egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar

Melt chocolate in scalded milk (slowly over low heat). Mix cornstarch, sugar and salt; gradually add chocolate milk mixture. Cook in double boiler until thick, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add small about of hot mixture to egg yolks {temper the eggs so they don't scramble}; stir into remaining hot mixture. Cook 5 minutes. Cool; add butter and vanilla. Pour into cooled baked shell and spread with meringue made of egg whites and 6 tablespoons sugar. Bake in moderate oven (350) 12 to 15 minutes.


*Sadly, I did not get a picture of my pie. Quite tragically, the last piece {which I intended to photograph} fell face-down on the floor. I may have shed a tear or so. And it wasn't because I didn't get the photo.

This photo, which looks remarkably like my pie is from The Homesick Texan. Who also has a grandma who makes good pie! Despite Blogger's resistance yesterday, I really thought you needed a visual. 

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