It’s hard to beat pie. You can go to any fancy restaurant and order a $20 item from the dessert menu, but it won’t be as good as a slice of my momma’s chocolate pie. Or pie made by any respectable lady who grew up in the South — which is anywhere below Little Rock.
There’s magic that happens in the kitchen when grandmas pass on their secrets of how to make pie, cobbler, and pudding.
Southern women learn early in life how to make sweets that keep folks coming back. Whether they’re trying to lure a fella or show appreciation to the preacher, a bowl of cobbler covered in homemade vanilla ice cream sends the right message with no words necessary.
Southern menu items leading up to dessert are also treasured, but most folks sitting around the Sunday dinner table are usually looking around the fried chicken or pot roast to see what dessert they’re about to have.
A table full of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens and hot cathead biscuits, is the precursor to the grand finale – dessert.
There are four basic Southern dessert groups: pie, pudding, cobbler, and cake. All others are just a variation on a theme.
It is this humble writer’s opinion that pie is the best sweet. Of course you have your cake lovers who will argue that cake is better than pie, but let’s just look at mainstream America and see which is more openly favored.
We don’t say, “Cake in the sky,” or “American as apple cake,” or “Cutie cake,” or “Easy as cake.”
No, the word is ‘pie.’
As much as I love my momma’s chocolate pie (which is requested by visiting relatives each time they drop in to see her in Ashdown, Arkansas), I have to say that her pecan pie is my preferred dessert at her house.
Not everyone can make pecan pie correctly. A good sign of whether the slice in front of you is fit to eat is how the person making it pronounces “pecan.”
If they say, “pe-can” and not “puh-con,” you might want to ask for chocolate pie or cobbler. (Paula Deen, other residents of Georgia, and some geographical areas of Kentucky receive an exemption on this pronunciation)
Pecan pie is a gift from above. If we gave everyone pecan pie, we likely could achieve world peace. Who would want to fight if they could eat pecan pie instead?
Cobbler is a Southern delicacy. Any self-respecting resident of Arkansas, Louisiana, or Texas, will make sure to hit their cobbler quota by mid-summer.
Using blackberries that were picked from the side of the road or on a farm fence line in the country, June blackberries can fill a 5-gallon bucket in no time, and consequently help make a cobbler big enough to feed a Sunday Baptist church congregation.
Desserts can also be used in hunting. If a Southern lady is hunting a fella, she can usually catch him fairly easily with a big bowl of banana pudding. Warm banana pudding can also calm a room full of women stressed out from playing bridge.
Each banana pudding recipe has similar ingredients, but the big debate is, and always will be, whether or not to use vanilla wafers.
Vanilla wafers are a mainstay of the South. Mommas shove them into the mouths of children who talk too much, and into the banana pudding of men who don’t talk enough. They’re truly a magic cookie that can quiet a room or sweeten a dish. At our house, banana pudding includes vanilla wafers.
If you go to any legitimate Southern-style restaurant, such as Cracker Barrel or Golden Corral, you’ll find pies, pudding, and cobbler. Cake is often included as an option for folks who are driving through from New Hampshire or some other foreign country.
But I recommend you stick with the pie.
By the way, if you’re hunting a fella, or your preacher has done well and deserves a treat, make sure to learn how to make pie, pudding, or cobbler from a reliable individual.
If they say, “puh-con,” and not, “pe-can,” then you’re off to a good start. Paula Deen not included.
©2021 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.