Tag Archives: Lucie’s Kitchen

“Mother could make a Banana Cream Pie from one banana. I don't know how she did it, but I can remember.”

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My aunts Edna and Helen each tell this tale, recalling the thin slices that Lucie stretched into a shared memory over 60 years ago. Even though food was often scarce, Lucie could still create something delicious from that one banana, the rest of the ingredients ubiquitous to a farm wife with a cow and chickens in the back yard

The legend has inscribed itself onto my own memory, even though Lucie left twenty years before I was born.

And none of her pie recipes are written down.

“Well no, because that’s something she just knew” is my aunts’ answer to this.  In Lucie’s kitchen, pie was more than a recitation of ingredients; it was a gathering of experience: how to handle a crust just right, how much thickener to add, how to cook it through without burning the edges.

You don’t need to write down what you make by heart.

For a while I was disappointed that Lucie left no written record of one of her hallmarks. But then I realized the most important ingredients had been handed to me:

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So in honor of Lucie I made a Banana Cream Pie this morning, with pieces of recipes from different authors, and with just one banana. My pie skills aren’t legendary, but I can pass down what I know.

Banana Cream Pie

Pie Crust
from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ pound cold butter
3 to 5 Tbsp ice water, as needed

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then cut in the butter, using your fingers or two knives, until it resembles coarse meal. [I use the pastry paddle on my mixer]. Lightly stir in the water a tablespoon at a time until you can bring the dough together in a ball. If crumbs remain on the bottom, add a few drops of water so that you can pull them together as well. Shape the dough into a disk and roll it out into a circle ⅛ inch thick. If the dough is so warm that it's sticky, refrigerate it for 15 minutes, then roll it out.

Becky's notes: Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough and crimp edges. Prick the bottom several times with a fork. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool at room temperature.

Filling
from Betty Crocker's New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know

Ingredients:

4 large egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ tsp. salt
3 cups milk
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sweetened whipped cream

Beat egg yolks with fork in small bowl. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Immediately stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks; stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap onto filling in saucepan. Refrigerate until room temperature.

Slice 2 bananas [or one, in a pinch] into pie shell. Pour filling over bananas. Press plastic wrap onto filling. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until set.

Remove plastic wrap. Top pie with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with banana slices if desired. Immediately refrigerate any remaining pie after serving.

 

See more about my pie life here. Coming soon: Sue's first pumpkin pie.

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“Mom, can she spend the night? She’s crying.”

This from my daughter. Her friend was on the phone because her birthday plans had evaporated. Now this sweet girl was looking for someone to notice.

Photo courtesy Alexander Shustov
Photo courtesy Alexander Shustov

I looked at my kitchen. A pile of cucumbers had been waiting all week to be pickled, and today was supposed to be the day.

Then I remembered my mother, who in some ways was that child on the phone, once. She told stories of the adults in her town that drove her to church and gave her clothes. I knew a better childhood than my mother did, and those angels were part of the reason why.

And then the word “margin” came to mind, the mantra that has been repeating itself all year in my mind. A wise woman that told a funny yarn about a speeding ticket and the need to leave margin in our lives taught me that one.

So I said “Yes, what time?” The pickles would wait for another day.

This is my Uncrowded Life.

Nobody has ever accused me of being tidy. My shelves are crowded with books and papers and life's debris. When a new thing comes along, I usually toss it onto the shelf and promise that I’ll get to it later.

But I don’t.

At some point (usually when company is coming over) I rifle through the piles and get organized. But gradually the clutter creeps back in. I’m working on it.

It’s really all a sign that I’m too busy, too distracted. I don’t take care of what is in front of me because I’m chasing after things I don’t have.

Clean Shelf

On the rare occasion that my shelves are uncrowded, what's there is seen. Gifts from friends are enjoyed rather than neglected and lost. If something is broken, it is noticed. And I can make room for more.

That’s what I want to see when I look back at my life. I want to throw out the to-do list and notice when gifts come my way rather than treat them like unwanted clutter. I want to pay full attention to what I've been given and love deeply.

Inspiration is all around me:

The pizzeria owner that drops everything during the rush to deliver pizza to a grieving family.

The community that shows up for a friend with cancer to eat and dance and sing and celebrate and raise $20,000 in one night.

The group of women that circles the wagons around one of their own when crisis strikes close to home.

Photo by Jon Toney
Photo by Jon Toney

Life isn’t simple. It’s layered and busy and always something needs to be done. But I am trying to leave margins in my day for the unexpected gifts and keep some shelf space open.

I fail often. But I keep trying.

Photo courtesy Will Clayton, Creative Commons
Photo courtesy Will Clayton, Creative Commons

Lucie made this special Sunshine Cake for family birthdays when my aunts were growing up. I plan to try it for my own daughter's birthday in a couple of weeks, but it belongs here today.

Sunshine Cake
by Mrs. J.B. Smith

Ingredients

1 ½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
6 eggs, whites & yolks beaten seperately
1 ¼ cup cake flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp orange or vanilla extract

Cook sugar and water until it spins a thread.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Pour in syrup and beat until cool.

Add beaten egg yolks and extract.

Sift flour and measure and sift again with salt and cream of tartar.

Fold in egg/sugar mixture quickly.

Pour into ungreased tube cake tin. Bake 1 hour at 325°.

Allow to cool in pan for at least one hour.

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“Can you go to the basement and get a jar of peaches for dinner?” my mother asked me a thousand different childhood nights while she finished cooking dinner.

Canned peaches. If you are imagining the sadness that schleps out of tin cans bought from the grocery store, erase that image from your mind right there. These are not those.

Peach jewels

Home-canned peaches are divine. They are sweet jewels that kids fight over, truly a dessert without any help from ice cream or pastry. As a child I dared myself into our basement for them; that’s how good they are.

I’m sure dirt basements exist outside of Michigan, but that’s what we call them here: a Michigan basement. It is one step down from “unfinished”, a dirt floor with crumbly plaster walls and a close ceiling. It is where our Dr. Seussian steel furnace grumbled and inhaled wood by the truckload on the far end of the room. Not spooky, exactly, just not a place you want to hang out.

With my mother’s nightly request I slid my feet into my father’s too-big slippers that were reliably parked by the basement door and I scampered down the stairs. Trapped between the furnace and the steps was the pantry: a cool, dark little side room perfect for storing canned goods. I stepped up into the black cave, waving my hand in the air to feel for the string that pulled on the light, and willed my imagination not to think of the salamanders and spiders and other Things that might be watching me. Once the light was on I breathed again and went in for the loot.

There was the treasure hunt.

First the peaches. Sometimes I picked pears too, or gathered the shopping list of tomatoes and pickles and beets my mother often ordered. I liked to poke around and inspect the lost and forgotten jars:  plums in murky sediment, jam with that weird wax seal, the apple juice nobody liked. Experiments left behind.

Satisfied, I carried as much loot away as I could hold. And I never, ever forgot the peaches. Nobody wants to get sent back to the basement for forgotten treasure.

 

Peach Tips on Pits:

A few tips on buying and ripening peaches:

First, if you are canning ask for “freestone” peaches. They come away from the pit easily.  Red Havens are the most common, but new varieties are out there. Cling types, whose flesh sticks to the pit, are wonderful for eating but a pain to pit—don’t try to can those or you will come away cursing like a sailor.

Second, know that peaches don’t keep. If they are perfectly ripe when you buy them, can them that day or early the next. If they are hard baseballs, go to step 3 and wait a few days.

Third, To ripen peaches at home, lay them out on a cool floor on an old sheet. Do not leave them in the bag or basket; the bottom ones will be ruined as they ripen. Check morning and night to gauge ripeness.

 

Will you be canning peaches this year? Any questions or fears out there?