Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott


When I was a very little girl I used to get to go to a farm in Water Valley, Mississippi. This wasn’t just any farm; this was my great-uncle Curtis’s farm. Uncle Curtis was my grandmother’s older brother, and his farm became a magical place for me.

Since we lived in Memphis, I was told that I couldn’t play in the mud because city mud was dirty. But since Uncle Curtis lived in the country, his mud wasn’t off limits by my four-year-old logic. Needless to say I had to be hosed down before I could ride home.

Uncle Curtis chewed tobacco, and he taught me how to spit. My mother was scandalized to say the least.

In the background of these memories is another figure – my great-aunt Marian. She normally spent most of the days we were there in the kitchen making a meal from the vegetables they grew. I was a very picky eater back then, and vegetables that weren’t tiny baby lima beans or mashed potatoes did not pass my lips. Aunt Marian knew how I was, and she always made sure there were things that I would eat. But she learned to sneak things in on me too.

My favorite pie back then (and still today) was lemon meringue. I loved it, and I wouldn’t question where it came from as long as I got a nice big piece. Aunt Marian knew this, so she almost always made her special pie just for me. It tasted like lemon pie. It looked a like lemon pie. It wasn’t lemon pie.

Her pie that I loved so so much was a squash pie. It was smooth and custardy and tart. It was pie perfection – one of those pies that other pies are judged against and come up wanting.

When our friend Nancie McDermott, author of Southern Cakes, started working on her book Southern Pies, she asked us if we had a pie recipe that we would like to share with her. Aunt Marian’s squash pie was the first thing that came to mind. We sent Nancie the recipe, and, amazingly enough, it ended up on page 72 of her very excellent book. I am honored to say the least.

It’s great to see that recipe out there and to know that other children will eat it and love it and never guess until it’s way too late that they ate – gasp! – squash. Nancie’s book is out in stores and available on Amazon. Sure you get Aunt Marian’s squash pie, but you get other great pie recipes by a lot of great people like Bill Smith, Martha Foose, Leah Chase, Nathalie Dupree, Sandra Gutierrez, Virginia Willis, Fred Thompson, and a host of other great Southern bakers, cooks, and writers. Pick up a copy. I promise you won’t regret it.

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