A few weeks ago I received and invitation to meet one of my suite mates from freshman year in college and her husband for lunch. They were coming to Miami for a wedding and had some free time that Saturday. I was so excited in the days leading up to it. I couldn’t wait!! I hadn’t seen ANY of my college chums since the day I left Mercer. That’s 35 years! Well, except my college boyfriend and he was a little bit of a rat so that’s another story another day. I had found my suite mates, Lane and Piper, some months back on Facebook. We went back and forth chatting online a bit every now and again but it just didn’t even come close to scratching the surface. I found myself thinking more and more of those sweet days so long ago. Especially when I was working out. Warming up with ipod on Lynyrd Skynyrd or Elvin Bishop my mind would always go back to those first weeks of freshman year at Mercer…and Freshmen Women’s Dorm. Dad had ordered an entire new wardrobe from New York for me everything from a car coat to a camel-hair coat, cocktail dresses, wide legged pants, french cuff shirts, wedges, heels, sandals, scarves and all manner of wraps. It was true fashion heaven! Anyway, there I was in Macon, Georgia with this incredibly huge wardrobe trunk in the freshmen girl’s dorm, Bette Midler playing on my turntable and guess what? I was stuck with the roommate from Dante’s fifth hell. Her name was Joyce and I couldn’t stand her. It was NOT going to work out. We were complete opposites. She was grunge, I was glamor. I was at wit’s end. What was I to do? She was supposed to be my best friend for the rest of my life and look at her!!! She was just a big mess. Excuse my language but I was pissed. I thought, “What am I doing here in this one cow town? With HER?? REALLY?”. I think I may have been unkind to her. As a result few weeks later I came back from class and she was gone. Just like that. Along with all her raggedy-ass stuff. And that’s when this long, tall body came sliding through the doorway of our shared bathroom, all tall and willowy…grace personified with a sunny, delightfully adorable little face framed by twinkling eyes. I sat on my bed stunned. Things were lookin’ up! With a long, slow drawl I heard, “Hey! I’m Lane!” to be followed by the same sexy drawl, “And I’m Piper!” By that time Lane was in my room and what followed was an equally darling girl with the biggest blue eyes and deepest dimples you’ve EVER seen! And REALLY good hair! And just like that everything changed. We talked, talked, talked, talked, talked. Where we were from, where we grew up, brothers and sisters, boys, hair, clothes, fraternities, makeup, sororities, boys, music, clothes and then back to boys. I had two new friends and they were going to teach what I didn’t already know about the South. There was a whole new set of social mores for me to learn and I had two girls who were more than happy to introduce me to the ways of the South! We had a blast! We chatted about the parties we wanted to go to, how we were going to fix our hair and makeup and THE perfect outfit. We went to the fraternity parties together, each scoping out her conquest de la nuit. And if one or two of us had a liiiiiiittle too much to drink, well, we kind of kept an eye out. Back at the dorm we’d eat whatever we could get our hands on and rehash the events and scandals of the night. I remember the weekend I was invited to go home with them to Atlanta and meet their families. Of course, their families were welcoming and charming as were the friends they introduced me to. We went to lunch and then Piper’s mama took us shopping. I was so excited! I was going to get jeans just like my suite mates!! Remember, Dad had The Tack Room, an upscale women’s clothing store. He always said he considered us walking models of the store so we really had to look our best. He wasn’t too thrilled about us wearing jeans so as a result Cynthia and I only had one pair each. Levis straight legs. That’s it. These new jeans? These were dress-up jeans. Downtown jeans. Wide legged, hug-your-ass, show off your 18-year-old stop traffic figure jeans. I was all about that. Piper’s mama lent me the money. $20.00. That was quite a bit back then for jeans. I loved them. I was on my way!! We spent so much time together those first months. There was a new dance out called the “Bump”, perfect with any BTO, Bachman Turner Overdrive, on the radio. I recall asking Lane if she would teach it to me. And she did. With Piper and me watching, she stood next to the dividing bar on the outside of my closet and took off to BTO’s “Taking Care of Business”. It’s all in the swing of your arms NOT in the movement of your hips. Now I hear the opening strains of that choppy guitar and I am catapulted back to that sunny afternoon in Macon. We went through rush together and I met more Southern girls, Parks and Betty George. Marion, Bug and so many more cute, fun girls . All of us ended up gravitating to then dating the ATO’s so more parties were shared. Halloween parties with big barrels of vodka and grape juice. Christmas parties on the back patio when it was icy cold out but we warmed up with, yes, more alcohol! Grain parties at the lodge were the most fun. The brothers would fill new (?), clean, plastic garbage cans, the tall ones, with grain alcohol and Hawaiian Punch. Inevitably, the following day someone would find a shoe or something equally nasty floating around at the bottom of the garbage cans! Or Venison parties where some of the brothers would go hunting on somebody’s Daddy’s “farm” and bring back all manner of meat. They would soak venison chops, steaks and roasts in a solution of salt water and vinegar, probably in those same plastic garbage cans, for a day or two to get the “wild”out and then throw them on the grill. Great, big hunks of meat with lots and LOTS of bourbon to wet your whistle!! And, of course, there was always, ALWAYS the ubiquitous keg standing frosty and proud in a corner just waiting to be tapped. We were very, very happy!! When I think of how loud the music was and the level of raucous noise…and they never got into trouble. Go figure. We danced and drank and drank and danced. Those were such happy days for all of us and I am eternally grateful to Lane and Piper for crossing the shared bathroom to introduce themselves and for showing me the Southern way of doing things!
Southerners are known for their baking prowess and acumen whether it be biscuit, cakes or pies, they own it! I’ve chosen for this post a pie which takes some time but, oh, Lord!! Just make certain you read the directions completely before starting because there is an order to making it. But I promise, it will be one of your all-time favorites. I haven’t had it anywhere else but in the South or at my house. And I don’t even like pie!! Except Key Lime and this one, Black Bottom Pie. It’s rich, gorgeous and totally worth every moment spent in its preparation. Perfect in summer it’s cool and silky and even children like it. I know. The Marshall twins across the street came to my rescue and took it off my hands! I know it takes some time, but again, worth every second. So please try it. Please? Your friends and family will show off their best Southern manners and thank you!
Black Bottom Pie
yield: one 9-inch pie
- 24 ginger snaps, Oreos, chocolate or honey graham cracker crumbs. Crush them in a large baggie with a rolling-pin or wine bottle or in your food processor, about 1 1/3 cups.
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon or 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 4 egg yolks, save the whites. You’ll need them later.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites, see? I told you you’d need them!
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 VERY generous tablespoon rum
Whipped Cream Topping: (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- 1 1-ounce square semisweet chocolate to grate over pie, you won’t use it all.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter until all the crumbs have been moistened.
- Spread cookie crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pie pan and press gently but firmly with your fingertips to cover the bottom and sides of the pie pan to form the crust.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes then set aside to cool.
- On to the custard. In a small heat-proof bowl pour the cold water then sprinkle the gelatin over the water to soften, 2-3 minutes.
- Set the bowl in a skillet of simmering water and stir constantly over low heat until the gelatin dissolves completely. Remove the skillet from the heat but leave the bowl in the hot water to keep the gelatin fluid.
- In a heavy 2-3 quart pot, scald the milk, you’ll see tiny bubbles form on the side of the pot. Remove from the heat but keep it covered to stay warm.
- In a separate bowl, use an electric beater or whisk to beat the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, cornstarch and salt for a good 3-4 minutes or until the yolks thicken slightly.
- Beating constantly, pour the hot milk in a thin stream into the egg yolk mixture then pour that whole mixture back into the pot.
- Place the pot over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Stir continuously over a low simmer until the custard thickens enough to coat the spoon lightly. Do not let the custard boil or it will curdle!
- Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin. Set aside.
- The chocolate layer. Melt the 3 ounces of chocolate in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat stirring constantly.
- In a small bowl measure 1 cup of the custard and set the rest of the custard aside.
- Pour the melted chocolate into the measured 1 cup of custard and mix well.
- When completely incorporated add the vanilla and mix well.
- Pour the chocolate-custard mixture into the cooled pie shell. Spread evenly over the bottom and refrigerate for one hour or until chocolate layer is firm to the touch.
- The rum layer! Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together until they begin to thicken.
- Add the 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until the whites make stiff peaks.
- Place the reserved custard in a pan or bowl half filled with ice and cold water. Stir the custard until if firms up to the point of almost clumps.
- With a rubber spoon or spatula stir the rum and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the egg whites into the custard.
- Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold into the custard until thoroughly mixed.
- Pour into the pie shell and refrigerate at least 3 hours or until top layer is firm to the touch.
- Whipped cream topping. Finally! Prior to serving pour cream into a chilled bowl.. I like to chill the beaters from my electric beater as well.
- As the cream thickens add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until you get stiff peaks.
- Spread evenly over the pie.
- Using a rasp grate the chocolate over the whipped cream and serve at once.
- Worth the effort!