Monday, September 14, 2009


In my childhood home, Mother treated each of us to a special birthday dinner -- our choice of complete menu, including dessert. I always asked for roast beef, rice with lovely clear gravy, a green vegetable (often Le Sueur Petit Pois Peas and canned mushrooms), biscuits, and chocolate icebox pie. She made two pies -- one to share with the family at the birthday dinner and one just for me.

To this day, I love pie.

Since leaving New Orleans, I have often dreamed of The Camellia Grill's coconut cream pie, a delicious icebox confection with tall meringue. Service is impeccable with silver and china, a straw popped and offered by the waiter, the wait staff in white with black bow ties, the counter a friendly place for strangers and old friends. What a lovely restaurant.

photograph source:

Another NOLA pie master or mistress, in this case, is Tee-Eva, who has a shop on Magazine Street. Despite the fancy website (, she dispenses all kinds of
goodies, including melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese pecan pie and sweet potato pie, from a tiny add-on extending from her garage. She makes whole pies and miniature, personal-sized pies, which in my case I snarfed down with a wash of strong chickory coffee.

photograph source

Sometimes, I dream about the 30+ pie selections at an Amish restaurant in Ohio, where my brother took me and one of his close friends. I no longer remember the restaurant's name or even where it's located (Berlin? Millersburg?), but I remember the list of pies given us by the waitress. Impressive doesn't begin to describe its depth and breadth of offerings. The three of us very nearly swooned, both at the list and at the taste of the three different choices we made. Mine was a berry combination, served warm with homemade ice cream.

I also remember my friend Al Pugh's homemade apple pie. A lifelong bachelor and southern gentleman of a time long gone, Al had particular tastes: fine literature, southern antiques (especially Alabama-made furniture), and homemade pie. His apple pies, made from scratch, spilled over with apple slices and convinced me that the cliched American pie just might be worth eating, on occasion.

There are local pies, like the blueberry pie I ate Friday at The Blue Chair, and the delicious French silk pie at Shenanigans.None of these, however, compares to my mother's chocolate icebox pie, which I sometimes make for myself. I have her recipe still, written in her hand, stored in a document box. Its ingredients and directions -- refined simplicity at its best. No photograph can capture the promise of palatable delight and joy of birthday memories.

(A friend emailed to ask if the Amish restaurant was Der Ducthman in Walnut Creek, Ohio. I think it might have been:

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