Arnett, Joe Anna
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"To cook is to
create. And to create well...
is an act of integrity, and faith."
Craig Claiborne's Chess
"Cooking is at once one of the simplest and most gratifying of
but to cook well, one must love and respect food."
~ Craig Claiborne
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time. I absolutely LOVE chess pie. Beyond all reason. When I look
pie recipes, they really do not appear all that scrumptious. Perhaps you agree.
But do yourself a favor by keeping an open mind here. You just might be
For some time now, I have intended to write a feature on chess pie, as it
to be a matter of great interest to an inordinate number of people
such as myself.
And I have more chess pie recipes in my files than I am
willing to admit. Which
is the best? Aye, there’s the rub. Since I could
not answer that question to my satisfaction, the Chess Pie Feature took up
residence on the very back burner…
I can tell you where I used to buy the best Chess Pie I’ve ever eaten,
in the good ole days. Please note the past tense here. Alas. It is no more. Sort of.
Jackson, MS, Jitney Jungle No. 14, on Fortification Street. (Yes,
Fortification St., because of the war. THE War. You know. The War Between
the States…) Where
Eudora Welty used to buy her groceries. Where the genteel
Southern ladies of Belhaven shopped and gossiped. The building is still
there, and they still sell groceries, but the personality went out of Jitney
14 years ago. Long before
Winn Dixie took over.
But I digress. Jitney 14 used to make THE BEST chess pie. Period. Bar none.
You could ask anybody. A Florida gal I used to work with (in my
Delta Air Lines days) was under strict instructions from her mother NOT to
fly home for a visit without the Jitney's Chess Pie. Dottie, of course,
being brilliant, complied. Every time. And she told us she was very,
very careful not to let the flight attendants
know what she was carrying,
else there would have been not one morsel left for mom…
(Dottie, are you out
Craig Claiborne has yet to let me down, so I have made the Big Decision.
I do not have Jitney 14’s recipe, we shall just call this recipe the
by Craig Claiborne, 1987, Times Books/
2007 Univ. of Georgia Press
“The origin of the name ‘chess
pie’ was explained to me on a visit to Kentucky
as follows: A visitor to the
South went to a dining establishment. At the time for
dessert, the waitress
told him that pie was included. He said he would like apple
pie and she
replied that it was not served. ‘Then I’ll take peach,’ he said. No
either. ‘What kind of pie do you serve?’ he asked. ‘Jes’ pie,’ she told him.
When in the course of reporting recipes for publication in The New York
Times I have mentioned the dessert known as chess pie, the response has
always been impressive beyond my wildest imagination. I have been told
repeatedly in each
letter that I did not know how to prepare the genuine
article. The following
recipe came to me anonymously. It was signed ‘A True
Southern Belle.’ "
Pastry for a
1/4 pound [1
stick] butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
Salt to taste,
1/4 cup milk
freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated fresh lemon rind [zest]
whipped cream for garnish, optional
nutmeg for garnish
the oven to 350 degrees [F].
2. Line a
9-inch pie plate with the pastry and flute the rim.
3. Put the
butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and
Beat in the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add
one at a time,
well after each addition.
Beat in the milk,
lemon juice, and
lemon rind [zest].
4. Pour and
scrape the mixture into the pastry-lined pie plate and
shelf of the oven. Bake 45 minutes, or until
the filling is golden
Let cool to room temperature.
5. Serve cut
into very small wedges with, if desired, a dollop of
sweetened whipped cream
on each serving.
to Craig Claiborne
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