FEATURED AUTHOR RECIPE
MISS AMERICAN PIE
My mother wasn’t too excited by cooking when I was growing up. Or, to put it more accurately, she never relished hours in the kitchen because there was always plenty else to do. As an artist and mother of five, Mama was a whiz of creativity and endearing distraction at almost everything she did, from cooking to housecleaning to painting portraits of local preachers and bank presidents. My sisters, brother and I share the fond memory of an oft-repeated scene: my mother jumping up from her chair in panic at the first whiff of burning breakfast toast or dinner rolls and my father responding without a touch of irony: “It’s fine, Bobbie Sue. I like it better that way.”
Like most people in Louisiana, my family loved to eat. My grandmother Momma Doll made mouth-watering chicken dumplings from scratch and my sister Stella baked bread. Because my father was much beloved physician, folks were always bringing over paper sacks full of fresh peas and beans. I regularly ate homemade crabapple jelly and fig preserves, crawfish, meat pie, biscuits and gumbo. When the pantry ran low, Mama relied on Hamburger Helper, which she considered a truly nifty invention -- not unlike iron-on patches or the vacuum cleaner -- for rescuing busy homemakers.
As a teenager in the 1970s, I thought “homemade” instant food far more fun than rolling dumpling dough and experimented with the likes of cool whip and instant Tang. During the hot Louisiana summers, a 7Up pie was a delight on a par with “coke floats.” (If you don’t know that one, it’s simple. Pour cold coca-cola into a large glass filled with vanilla ice cream. Heaven.) I’m pretty sure that hot spiced tea remains a standard comfort food for winter days in the deep South. My friends and I made it in big batches. We poured it into Mason jars and tied ribbons around the lids. With hand-decorated labels, these made great holiday gifts. They still do.
Like my diaries, these recipes contain memories. I’ve pulled them from the attic detritus of my past and share them here because they evoke the salad days of my youth -- some of the tastiest ones.
Adapted from The Cotton Country Collection, published by the Monroe, Louisiana Junior Charity League (1972)
1 cup sugar
Yield: 1 9-inch pie, 6 to 8 servings
This tea may also be served cold.
1/2 cup sweetened iced tea mix powder
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. For each serving, place 2 to 3 rounded teaspoons of the mixture into a mug and add very hot water. Stir until mixture dissolves.
Yield: Approximately 25 servings