One of my favorite memories of my mother comes from when I was in high school, and even into college. Mom and I both loved the theater (or, if you prefer, theatre). Each year Mom would buy us season tickets to the Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park. All of our tickets were for Sunday matinee shows so, during the summer, every couple of weeks, we’d put on our Sunday best (people still dressed up for the theater(re) then) and drive to Dallas to join all of the blue-haired folk in enjoying the musical that was showing.
Of course since the shows always started at 2:00 p.m., lunch was considered to be a big part of the day. Near the Fair Park Music Hall is a restaurant called the Old Mill Inn. I’ve not been a very long time but then, they served a lunch buffet before each and every show at the Music Hall. This became our place of choice. One of the odd things about the place was that there was no dessert on the buffets. One afternoon we asked about this, thinking a little something sweet would be great. Our server informed us that they had a handful of dessert offerings. He ran through a short list and then said, “But our best, most popular dessert is the Strawberry Pie.” Mmmmm. Strawberry Pie. Nothing sounded better on that warm day than a cool slice of Strawberry Pie.”We’ll take two of those!” my mom said with enthusiasm. “Sorry”, said the waiter. “We’re sold out. If you want to get the strawberry pie, you have to order it when you get here and we’ll reserve you a piece. But they go quickly” We were understandably disappointed and settled for a less thrilling dessert. We then went to see the play, already looking forward to our next trip to the Old Mill Inn.
Several weeks later, we were back but this time, we were ready. We sat down at our table and immediately told the server that we wanted two slices of strawberry pie. She quickly went to the kitchen and returned with two beautiful bright red slices of strawberry pie. So summer-y. So delicious. It was difficult to let it sit there as we ate our lunch. I’m pretty sure we both snuck in a bite during our meal.
One of the things that always struck me about that was how we loved that pie so very much but neither my mom (nor I) ever attempted to learn to make the pie at home. Maybe it’s because we knew that those moments were special for a reason greater than a recipe. Two people who loved each other and were connected in the most lovely of ways were sharing a day, sharing fun. Not just as mother and daughter, but as the friends that we had become.
A few years ago, I had a day when I was missing my mom. It was spring and I was fondly remembering those times and that pie. I decided to learn to make the pie, in her memory. Knowing that when I ate it, it would be more than just a pie. It would be a part of my life. Part of my story. After a few tries, I found the recipe that tasted just as I remembered. Uncomplicated, fresh….. delicious. I now try to make it once a year, at least. I took two to a Memorial Day celebration last night and came home with two empty pie plates. It was a hit.
If you have strawberry lovers in your house, give it a try. And as you eat it, think back on your special food memories. What foods remind you of special times with special people? What recipes carry special meaning for you? I’d love to hear about them. I’d love to hear your stories and try your recipes. Food is more than just a way to sustain life. Food defines so many of our memories. Please share. I’d love to sit at a table with you.. even a virtual one.
2 pounds strawberries, cleaned
baked pie crust (see No-Fail recipe below)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
Halve 1 1/4 pounds of the strawberries. Mash the remaining 3/4 pound. Place halved berries in the prepared pie crust.
In a medium saucepan, combine mashed berries, cornstarch, sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour mixture over halved berries in crust.
Refrigerate until set (about an hour).
Makes 1 pie.
No-Fail Pie Crust
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups Crisco
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
In a large bowl, combine the flower, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and cut with a pastry blender or knives quickly until the mixture is crumbly.
In a small bowl, beat the egg well and add the vinegar and water. Pour most of hte mixture over the flour-shortening mixture and mix until combined. At this point the dough can be divided, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated or frozen.
Use according to your recipe’s directions.
Makes 2 single crusts or 1 double crust.