My mother-in-law is nothing if not clever. She grew up in California’s central valley on a small farm-ish where they had their own chickens, fruit trees, gardens and perhaps I am imagining it, a cow. She learned the art of chicken plucking early on and was kind enough to never explain it in full detail. She told us how they made mayonnaise because store-bought was not only too expensive but tasteless. Lemons dropped from their orchard trees like snow does in some other parts of the country, so they used them in everything. Lemon meringue was a frequent pie of the week at their house.
That day my daughter ate her first lemon pie, she carried on tradition. The child, in a high chair and yet to have uttered her first word, was given a lemon wedge to gnaw on while dinner was being prepared and brought to the table. Before I knew it my little child was two-fisting lemon wedges into her mouth faster than I’d eat M&Ms. Aghast, I tried to remove them from her clenched fists without success. Apparently that lemon-loving addiction was more than a habit – it might be in the genes.
And then in the middle of everyone cooing over how adorable the child was completely smeared with lemon, she uttered her first words aloud. A car horn blared in the neighborhood cutting through the quiet like a sling shot of thunder. With her mouth full, she looked up and yelled out only a word a parent could appreciate – if only they were not in the company of two generations of grandparents. Shit was what she yelled. Just shit. Try that through a mouth of lemon and there is bound to be one elderly person, (think great-grandmother) a bit hard of hearing, who will turn to the child and ask: “What?” And of course said child will yell out once again – “SHIT!” while spitting lemon along with the expletive.
Some snickered. One turned beet red (me) and the grandparents snorted with glee while the great-grandmother looked like she was going to have a heart attack and gave us scathing looks.
And from that day four hundred years back, although lemon meringue pie is still a favorite around here, no one can eat a slice without snickering about that day when the child uttered her first word.
Pie Party Lemon Meringue Pie
- one GF pie crust, blind baked
- one batch of lemon cream
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- pinch of cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- ¾ cup superfine sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350
- Bake pie crust according to directions. Spoon in lemon cream.
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat whites with cream of tartar and salt until frothy. Start adding in sugar slowly as the mixer whips the whites. Whip until sturdy and glossy peaks form.
- Spoon meringue over lemon cream to the edges of the pie crust. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or just until the meringue is beginning to brown. Cool on a rack. Refrigerate until cream is set, about two hours.