I have every intention of having this blog be about books and writing, but sometimes I stray. Today is one of those days, because I want to give you my recipe for Chess Pie.
Chess Pie is an old Southern recipe. My South Carolina father loved a chess pie, untouched as he was by any health food considerations. He lived in an era before cholesterol, or at least before we knew the word, and he died at home at 87 of a heart attack. A good way to go. My main memory of chess pie was when my boyfriend my freshman year of college flew to Greenville to see me, and came down the steps of the plane carrying a chess pie for my father. I thought that was a little too sweet, in more ways than one. If the boyfriend could have married my parents, that would have been perfect. That’s more or less what that chess pie told me.
The pie originated in England. No one is quite sure where the name comes from. Some think it’s because the pies were kept in a pie chest. Another explanation goes that when a husband asked what kind of pie it was, the wife answered “jes’ pie.”
Right now as I type this I have a chess pie in the oven and it smells like heaven, if heaven is made of butter, eggs, vanilla and sugar. I wish you could smell it. I’m taking it to a dinner party tonight for six. I about had apoplexy trying to decide what to make for dessert. I have at this very moment in my book bag to return to the library the book Sugar Busters, which states that sugar is basically poison. I am interested in health, food, and nutrition and I read various books related to the subject. I try to cook fairly healthily. I hold the fort on red meat, am bad about butter, do pretty well with whole grains, and can walk away from sugar most of the time. When I was assigned dessert to bring tonight, it created the usual tiz about what to fix. I often make something with apples, but at this point in the fall I’m tired of apple crisp, baked apples, apple pie, and apple Brown Betty. I got out Mark Bittman’s Food Matters (because I believe it does) and looked through the dessert recipes. I wanted to take something without too much sugar, butter, and eggs, something somewhat healthy which wouldn’t make people feel bad about eating it, not to mention spiking their blood sugar. But I didn’t want to make Coconut and Brown Rice Pudding, Spiked Pink Grapefruit Granita, or Frozen Chocolate Bananas. I didn’t want to make a single Mark Bittman healthy dessert.
I wanted to make chess pie.