This Saturday, after four years of sharing the message that pie is a perfect food tradition for Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in other people’s churches, I get to celebrate with a Peace Through Pie social and my home congregation. I am thrilled that Round Rock has joined more than two dozen local organizations and schools in Central Texas, and a growing list of PTP hosts nationwide, but it is going to be a very full day.
It all starts with the Women and Food Symposium at the University of Texas – Austin’s Food Lab, where I am on program with several noted women, including award-winning writer and author Laura Shapiro and New York Times writer Kim Severson. Then, I will introduce Peace Through Pie, which is re-kindling the pie social to spark social change, to marchers in the 27th Annual MLK walk and program in Round Rock, Texas. (The march begins at 1:30 at C D Fulkes Middle School and ends at the Allen R. Baca Senior Center.)
The celebration at Faith4Life Church wraps up my evening with music, a pie baking contest, and a recitation to honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Pastor Evan Black and his wife Minister Priscilla invited the congregation and neighbors to come together to share sweet and savory world pies to honor Dr. King’s message of unity and “beloved community,” because Pastor Black says, “Community and diversity are my passions.”
Pastor Black was immediately drawn to the idea of mixing food, fellowship and fence-mending. The husband and father of two bi-racial sons grew up in Atlanta in a family dedicated to equality, diversity, and racial reconciliation. Although his grandfather once refused to allow his mother to attend integrated schools, she stood up for her beliefs, joined the Direct Action campaign, and marched with Dr. King, making diversity “important to me,” Pastor Black explains.
“I really want this to be an event that is open to the community. We are a church, but we want to work with, embrace, and help the community. We want to be part in any way we can. Heaven is not going to be all white or all African American or all Hispanic. It’s going to be a mixed; that’s the way the congregation should be.”
With all of this — plus tastebuds that are still sticky from the sweetness of traditional holiday pies like pumpkin, sweet potato and pecan — I needed a simple pie recipe that would go together fast, but taste deliciously different. I turned to “the ladies” of The Jemima Code, of course, and settled on a book that seemed particularly appropriate for the occasion: Colorful Louisiana Cooking in Black and White.
In a hilarious take the authors, Ethel Dixon and Bibby Tate, attempt to resolve for modern audiences the persistent confusion between southern and soul food by putting the letter “W” next to the recipe title for dishes cooked the way white folks do it and a “B” to show how we roll. Interestingly, some clear distinctions were noticeable, such as the addition of water in the “white” version of a recipe and milk on the “black” ingredients list. This book was a joy to read, but I like my friend and cookbook author Nancie McDermott’s solution better.
She ignored it.
Each little narrative in her cookbook, Southern Pies, shares folklore or teaches pie-making techniques. Nancie also attributes the recipes to their source, many of whom are Jemima Code authors, including Minnie C. Fox and her Blue Grass Cook Book, which I brought back to life in 2005. Nancie’s work does not depend upon labels. She offers no categories or stereotypes. The habit of marginalizing the contributions of African Americans simply does not exist here. This is a great collection of diverse recipes that span the southern pie pantheon giving credit where credit is due — without racial borders.
Butterscotch Pie, for example can be traced to the earliest cookbooks by both African American and white cookbook writers, sometimes called Caramel Pie or Brown Sugar Pie. In her 1948 cookbook, A Date With A Dish, Freda DeKnight cooks brown sugar, butter, and eggs with milk and a bit of flour before baking for a light and moderately sweet dessert with a hint of butterscotch flavor. Patty Pinner updates the formula in Sweetie Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie, offering two versions. One follows DeKnight’s lead, making butterscotch from scratch. The other one cuts preparation time and effort by eliminating the milk, stirring the ingredients together, then finishing the pie in the oven, taking its carmel notes from butterscotch chips.
With so many choices, I’m still uncertain which one I will share this weekend to honor the birthday of Dr. King. What kind of pie will you bake?
Faith4Life church is located at 1000 McNeil Rd. Round Rock, Texas, 78681. For a complete listing of Peace Through Pie socials visit: peacethroughpie.org
Patty Walker’s Easy Nut and Chips Pie
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
- One (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until blended well with an electric mixer. Stir in the pecans, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Place in the oven and bake until the crust turns golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving. You can dress up each slice with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.
Recipe from Patty Pinner’s Sweetie Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie.