9:54 a.m. - November 17, 2006
Hey everyone. I have to write a speech for the Leadership Academy today, so I asked Liz if I could borrow one of her writings for the site today.
This was just published in Montgomery Woman, which is part of The Paper of Montgomery County and in fact was the cover story.
I'm so proud of her. She is a rock. And I did like that pie she made. Honest.
This puts a crimp in my annual holiday baking. It is impossible to compete with a dead woman. Not only do I lack her recipes and baking skills, but the stories of her dishes have taken on proportions worthy of ancient Greece.
For starters, Mamaw made her own pie crust. She learned how to make pie crust from her mother who learned how to make pie crust from her mother. Then she spent 40 years perfecting it. Her pie crust was reported to be so light and fluffy that it could take flight. On special occasions she would make her famous chocolate meringue pie. They say the meringue was a foot thick.
I took a class to learn how to make pie crust. It was taught by a woman who was working on her PhD in Home Economics. I still can't make decent pie crust. I suppose skipping the part about practicing for 40 years has something to do with that.
I attempted to make a meringue pie exactly once. My meringue looked like a tortilla. My mother-in-law politely ate a piece of the pie. Then she spent fifteen minutes describing Mamaw's chocolate meringue pie.
Then there was Mamaw's legendary fried chicken. Poultry would willingly give their lives to have such a send off as Mamaw's fried chicken. It was crisp and juicy and the spices she used were a secret which she took with her to her grave.
I have never attempted to fry chicken. I do prefer healthier alternatives like broiling, but the real reason is that I know I could never hope to match Mamaw's fried chicken. No matter what I did, I would have to sit and listen to a dinner conversation about her fried chicken instead of mine. It is easier to say, "Hey, lemon chicken! And it is broiled to keep it low in fat!"
I sometimes wonder what choices Mamaw would have made with her life if she had been born in a time when women could vote and were expected to pursue careers outside of the home. Would she have been the same farm wife or would she have gone in a different direction? What stories would her family tell about her now?
My family includes women who have been stay at home moms, teachers, engineers, TV producers, managers, and attorneys. Our culinary skills range from opening a box of lean cuisine to being able to pull off a lovely holiday dinner. The gourmet cook in my family is my brother in law, Rich, who works with computers as a data architect.
But as my husband's family would be quick to point out, he can't make Mamaw's chocolate meringue pie either.
This essay is copyright Liz Fendley, 2006. Reprinted with permission.