By Grace Strahan
Long before it was trendy to buy and eat local, my parents were firm believers in homemade and homegrown. Daddy loved nothing more than honey from local bees with the honeycomb intact. He would bring home fresh eggs from someone he had visited out in the country. A tiered bed of strawberries neatly placed into our backyard, yielded fruit for pies, jams and ice cream.
Once daddy even brought home a gallon of fresh milk, unpasteurized and unprocessed. I remember the strong smell and refused the first drop. However, daddy’s childhood memory of sweet milk and cornbread was something he requested often. When we would ask daddy what he wanted for dinner, it was always the same — cornbread and peas. He believed in unfussy meals and a bottle of hot sauce on the table. A meal of cornbread, peas, fresh tomatoes and pork chops was considered to be a feast by daddy. And well, I’m not sure that many Southern men would argue about that menu.
Simple. Local. Seasonal. Fresh. These words describe many of the best recipes. Basic and uncomplicated ingredients are reflective of my father’s culinary tastes. And while I didn’t appreciate these ideas as a child, I have grown to appreciate my father’s love of food. Recipes that contain staple ingredients can be the most flavorful and pleasing to the palate. Classics, containing few, but well-paired combinations will yield dishes you will learn to construct from memory.
Chess Pie is a simple, Southern dessert. You only need eggs, sugar, butter, milk, cornmeal and a basic pie crust. If you want to dress up this pie, add a few fresh berries or seasonal fruit such as blackberries or strawberries this summer. I even cheat and use premade crust — refrigerated or frozen. The recipe that follows makes two fairly thin pies. You could easily make one thicker pie but would need to adjust the cooking time.
This is the perfect pie to share at back yard cookouts and family gatherings. And, if you just can’t bear to be that simple, look for a recipe that is a variation of this dessert. Many books contain lemon, brown sugar or pineapple varieties of Chess Pie. No matter the flavorings, this pie is a winner and will be a repeat in your cooking repertoire.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. corn meal
1/4 cup milk
2 prepared pie crusts, each pressed firmly into your pie tins
Mix ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie shells — divided equally. Cook for approximately 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 2 pies.
Email Grace Strahan at gstrahan@SynergeticsDCS.com .