Missy's Pies -- Especially Butterscotch Meringue -- Suhweeet!
Although food and meals (and smells, particularly) pull up memories and can remind us of meals past (and people and places past), I almost never find myself nostalgic for particular foods. The great foods that surrounded our working farm and country church community as I grew up are not locked back in the past. They are available today: homegrown vegetables, fruits, meats and poultry. Dairy is a sticking point, one so complex and politicized I'll just ignore it for now. But for the most part, if I loved a food in childhood -- fresh peas, homemade baked beans, pork roast, homemade ketchup, green beans, sliced tomatoes, cherry pie -- the ingredients grow in our urban garden, or a wonderful farmer brings them to a farmers' market in Lexington.
For the most part. A few foods stand out in memory because of the skill of the cooks, or the recipes they had perfected. Today, as I often do, I remember the excellence of Myrtie Elam's butterscotch meringue pie. This pie, when it appeared at church dinners, organized my entire plate and my approach to filling it. I fear the awareness of the pie's presence may have even influenced my waiting-in-line behavior, not in a sweet direction. In any case, the pie sang to me, and butterscotch, caramel, burnt sugar flavors sing to me still.
I have seen Myrtie's recipe for her pie, in her own handwriting, in my parent's house, but I don't have a copy. I doubt my abilities to reproduce the pie even if I had the recipe, because some people have the Pastry Gift, and I don't. I can make credible cakes and cookies, but pies -- I flail, then I fail.
Perhaps Ramsey's Diner owner Rob Ramsey was thinking of people like me when he launched Missy's Pies in 1988. Missy's started with Peanut Butter Pie and Brownie Pie, but saw the light and began making meringue pies.
About the crucial pie crust, each of the recipes above takes the coward's way out, blithely recommending either using a commercial crust (anathema!) or "your favorite pie crust." Right.
Crust is a tender matter. The crust is where finesse and the Pastry Gift particularly come into play. I am giftless, and will assert, even so, that a far-from-perfect homemade crust will top a bought crust in appeal and flavor every time.
Here's a detailed recipe for Basic Flaky Pie Crust from epicurious.com that received quite a few positive reviews. This crust relies on some techniques that those of us without the Pastry Gift can adopt to help us through the trickier pastry challenges.
Or, if you live near Lexington, you can always buy a slice or a whole pie at Missy's, at these locations.
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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 36.