Preserving history through food is one of my passions. Nothing thrills me more than to have someone share with me a cherished recipe from their family heritage. I’ll usually make that recipe, like these pie crust cookies. Oh, the sweet story behind these cookies.
Then I love it when someone tells me about something that they loved eating as a child, growing up, the memories it would evoke. That’s how this recipe came about. Growing up in West Virginia, we had dear neighbors, the Burgess family. There were two children, Sarah, who was about six years younger than me, and her brother, Gilman, who was maybe ten years younger. I remember when Gilman was born. He was like our real live baby doll that we would play with! I would spend hours in Sarah and Gilman’s kitchen watching Miss Lulah cook, and I learned so much from her!
Fast forward now some decades later and both Sarah and I are grown, both grandmothers and we still are friends, virtually seeing each other daily on Facebook. One day Sarah asked me if I’d ever tasted Miss Opal’s creme pie with a graham cracker crust. I hadn’t, so I set about asking Sarah about what made it so delicious. Of course, I probed and questioned, and Sarah described and explained.
Now, Miss Opal and her husband, Talmadge, were lifelong residents of our small Appalachian town and our families were all intertwined in this small mountain community. Sarah said she wished she’d gotten Miss Opal’s recipe before she passed away in her early 90s. It was her very favorite. Knowing that memories are connected emotionally to food, and knowing that Sarah had these warm special memories, I set about trying to recreate this pie and a recipe for Sarah.
I’m not sure if it’s what her palate memories are, but I can assuredly say that this pie is one of my family’s favorites. I decided to add toasted coconut to it and make the pie crust, with a graham cracker base, more substantial and with more texture. This pie is refrigerated and is simply divine. Creamy. Crunchy. It’s like eating a slice of a life long gone. My dear West Virginia home. The past. When days were longer, people waved at each other as they drove down the street, kids walked to school, rode their bikes, doors were left unlocked and everyone knew you name and your family.