A Tale of Oil and Pie

It was the best of Mondays, it was the worst of Mondays.

I’m on Spring Break – that magical time of the year where students interpret that term as meaning, “fun and random partying in Florida,” non-educators interpret it as meaning, “another paid vacation,” and teachers see it as “a chance to get caught up on everything I need to have for work.”  While I certainly intend to de-stress this week, please don’t go to bed thinking that I’m not working, because honestly, I am.  I’ve got tests to grade, lectures to write, and lesson plans to revise; things that are necessary and can only be accomplished if I have the time to do them.  I could say more, but if I did, I’d only be revisiting a previous rant on work and perception, so I’ll stop and just say that the idea of educators flocking down to the various Florida drinking holes for a week on someone else’s dime, is largely fiction.

I did take, however, time out to get my car’s oil changed.  The last time I could do it was in August, so yes, it was about time.  It was the first time I’d been to the service shop since last November’s transmission episode, so I was leery – I couldn’t help but feel that something else would be an issue.  Well, I was right – turns out that the air filter needed replacing, and that was another $40 that I hadn’t budgeted for – but the car was there, the mechanic was there, and the work needed to be done; it would have been foolish to refuse.  With episodes like this, I give thanks for the fact that I can take care of business, even if I’d rather not.  As I see it, at least I have the means to do what needs to be done; there are so many out there who can’t.  Kind of kills the desire to complain, you know?



Many years ago, a good friend gave me a cookbook for Christmas.

Calling All Cooks Two (1988) is a collection of recipes from the Telephone Pioneers of America, Alabama Chapter No. 34.  There’s actually a series of these, but I’m the proud owner of this one.  What I found interesting about the cookbook is that there are multiple submissions for the same dish, so there’s no “official” way of making that item.  The Little Woman loves this cookbook because, as she puts it, “It’s got all of the good things in it.”  That’s partially true: I’ve never been able to replicate my father’s peach fried pie (think McDonald’s pie but a thousand times better), nor his sweet potato fried pie (my eyes are swelling up just thinking about that loss – it was that good), and despite all of the certifiable goodness found within the 700+ pages of Calling All Cooks, it is of no help with those.  If the Little Woman ever got a taste of those recipes, she’d lose her mind.  Those recipes were written down once – once! – before they were lost to the Ages.

A tragedy indeed.

Especially since Daddy Furious convinced us all that he didn’t know how to cook.  That was one of the biggest lies my father ever told.  The man was awesome in the kitchen!  From his homemade custard pies, to his banana pudding (from scratch), my father was a culinary gem.  Yet he always acted like he didn’t know much about the kitchen at all.  Maybe he didn’t want to cook full time; I don’t know.  He never recorded his recipes (not that I know of), which is all the more impressive.  Don’t get me wrong: Mama Furious was an excellent cook.  She catered on the side, but if the two of them got into a kitchen war, Daddy Furious could hold his own.  Oh, how I miss them.

And . . . I digress.

I mentioned my plans yesterday for making a sweet potato pie.  There are a half-dozen recipes for that in this cookbook, and believe me when I say that I’ve tried them all.  My favorite, however, is the one listed below.  It’s pretty easy to make and the ingredient list isn’t that bad – with the exception of the milk, potatoes, and pie shells, I keep everything else on hand, so it’s not that expensive, either.  (Milk is a funny commodity at home; sometimes it moves quickly, and on other occasions, I’ll end up dumping the whole half-gallon.  As a result, I buy milk when I need it.)

Anyway, here is the recipe that I use the most, posted here for your eating pleasure:

Sweet Potato Pie 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 ½ c. cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 unbaked (deep dish) pie shell

Beat eggs slightly; add sugar, salt, spices, and milk.  Add butter to mashed sweet potatoes; blend with milk and egg mixture.  Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 450º for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350ºand bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until filling is firm. 

– Alice L. McGee  (Calling All Cooks Two, pp. 379-380)

This is one of the best sweet potato pie recipes I’ve ever used, maybe because at it’s heart, it’s a pretty simple recipe to follow.  Most recipes that I’ve used require the use of lemon juice, which I hate, because it either means buying lemons that are too expensive, or shelling out for a container of juice that’ll get one use – ever.

I will confess that there is one alteration that I made to this.  In the original version, it asks for an “8-inch pie shell,” not a “deep dish” shell, as listed above.  I made this switch due to experience.  Unlike most pie fillings, it’s virtually impossible to estimate how much mashed sweet potatoes one will end up with; it’s wholly dependent upon the size of the potatoes involved.

To test whether it is done or not, use a toothpick (and not your fingertips!).  Insert a toothpick in various places and see if it’s coated in potato when you pull it out.  If it’s relatively clean, you’re good to go; if not, put the pie back in the over in five minute increments until it passes the test.

I grew up with sweet potato pies, so I took for granted that other people know that this is essentially a custard pie, and as such, it can’t be cut right away.  In other words, you can’t take a sweet potato pie from the oven, let it cool for ten minutes, and then dig in – you have to let it set, and that could take thirty minutes or more.  Cut that pie before it’s had the chance to set, and you’ll end up with a crust filled with molten goo.

I’m so into this right now.  I think I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon . . .




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