Hmm. Today’s assignment is all about word count and changing it up. I know there’s a word counter at the bottom as I type, but I can’t say I’ve ever really paid attention to it. I had to go back and look through my old posts just to see what my average word count per post is. Does that make me a bad blogger? I’ve always just written until I had nothing else to say or until I felt like I had reached a good stopping point. Looks like that’s around the 500 mark for me.
So I guess that this post needs to be longer than that. So, I’m going to tell you a story.
When I was little, my parents worked all the time. My brother and I spent a lot of time with my Dad’s mom. We’ll call her A for short. She and my grandfather had been divorced since before I was born, so she lived alone. She was more than happy to keep us and we were more than happy to see her. She loved to cook with us.
One of my favorite things that she taught me to make was her family’s chocolate pie. It was a recipe she learned from her mom, who learned it from her mom, ect. It’s one of those go-to family recipes that every Southern family seems to have. It’s made for holidays, birthdays, and funerals.
She would start by tying one of her home made aprons around me and tying my hair back. Then she would tell me what ingredients to gather; sugar and flour in their respective bowls from under the island, cocoa and vanilla from the shelf, and milk, butter, and eggs from the fridge. They would all get put on the counter with a large mixing bowl and a sifter.
She would help me carefully measure the sugar, flour, and cocoa into an old sifter that she’d probably had since she was a young woman. It squeaked with every turn. We would sift them together three times to make sure everything was incorporated. Next, it was on to the stove. She would slide a kitchen chair up to the stove for me to stand in and then get the cast iron skillet that belonged to her mother. My parents still have it.
Before we started making the filling, we would take a fork and poke holes in frozen pie crusts. Then we put them in the oven to bake while we made the filling. The first step was to heat the skillet and melt the butter. Then, she would slowly add the dry ingredients while I stirred. It looks really grainy, like sand, but it will all come together.
The next step is to add the eggs and milk slowly and stir constantly. We would take turns stirring while she told me about her grandmother, mom, growing up in the Depression, and how special these pies were when she was a kid. Once the mixture is thickened, to about the consistency of chocolate pudding, you add vanilla and pour it into the cooked pie shells to let it set.
I couldn’t have been any older than 4 or 5 when I started learning to make these with my grandmother. She did it all by memory so it took me a while to remember the exact measurements. My grandmother passed away a few years ago after a terrible bout with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I miss her terribly, as she was when I was a child. Making these pies with her and seeing the light in her eyes is how I always choose to remember her.
I now make these pies for my dad and his brother, the rest of my family, and my boyfriend’s family. They are well loved by everyone. I smile whenever someone tells me how delicious they are because it makes me think of what my grandmother always told me about them: “Such a simple thing, but it always brings the family together and makes them happy, even if it’s just for a minute”
Making them is such a bittersweet thing for me. I love to bring joy to people just like my grandmother did, but thinking of her makes me miss her terribly. She was the kind of lady I aspire to be and she was always proud of me, no matter what. She was kind to everyone and did her best to take care of everyone. Was she always so perfect? No. I know she wasn’t. She got a little vengeful in her divorce from my grandfather, she was stubborn, and stuck in her ways. But she was my grandmother and I loved her.
If you’re younger, or even (and especially) if you aren’t, please take time to spend with your grandparents and parents. They will teach you more than just a chocolate pie recipe. If you listen, they will teach you about life.
What is your favorite memory of one of your family members? What is your family recipe/specialty?
P.S. From my family to yours, here is my Nana A’s Family Chocolate Pie:
- 1 Cup sugar
- 2 rounded Tablespoons Flour
- 2 rounded Tablespoons Cocoa powder
- 1 rounded Tablespoon butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 Cup Milk
- 1 to 2 teaspoon Vanilla extract.
- pie shells
- Sift together flour, sugar, and cocoa powder in small container until well blended.
- Melt butter in cast iron skillet. Add dry ingredients and mix lightly.
- Beat the eggs and then add milk. Stir together and then slowly pour into skillet, stirring continuously.
- Stir until mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
- Remove from heat and add Vanilla extract.
- Pour into baked pie shells and allow to set before serving. (It’s just as good at room temp as it is cold the next day.)
- A meringue is optional, but we never did it because it isn’t a huge hit in our family. So if you want to add one, just google how to make it. 😉