Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Berry Pie For A Friend

Monday, June 15, 2010

This is a there-abouts conversation between Mr. Willie and I a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Willie: Baby, I think I would like some fried green tomatoes one day and a berry pie.

Carolyn: A blackberry pie ?

Mr. Willie: Yes.

I turned to look at his profile as he watched a basketball game, thinking to myself that this must be a hint that he wants me to cook these things for him. I do after all, have some knowledge of what he has cooked and what his specialities are. Fried green tomatoes and blackberry pie are not things he has cooked.

Carolyn: Who is going to cook those things for you ?

Mr. Willie: I'm hoping you will. Have you ever cooked fried green tomatoes ?

Carolyn: Well, I could speak with my mom, she fries eggplant all the time, it can't be any...

Mr. Willie: Baby, have you ever cooked fried green tomatoes? Ever made a berry pie?

Carolyn: No.

Mr. Willie turns to look at me with a slight look of disappointment on his face. He then pats my knee and gives that beautiful smile of his and winks.

Mr. Willie: I am confidant that when you make either of those, they're gonna be good.

He turned back to look at his game.

A Bit of My Cooking History

As a youngster I would imagine Sunday after-church-goers marching in line to eat at my dad's restaurant in Detroit

I was born and raised in the Midwest but my parents are southerners. My mom was born in Tennessee, her mother died when she was five years old so my mom never learned to cook, even this day. My father was born in Georgia, he has/had many siblings, they all come from a long line of people that can really, really, cook.

When I was young, my dad had a soul food restaurant in Detroit in the 1960s. He was the main cook and as his restaurant became more popular, we had to hire other cooks. My dad was very particular, cooks were always easy to come by but whoever worked in my dad's restaurant had to know how to cook as if they were from Georgia. If the person could not cook exactly like he wanted, they had to at least be open minded and able to learn, and fast.

Sundays at my dad's restaurant were very big and busy days. It was the only day that I got to waitress. After church let out, our restaurant was bombarded with church-goers from the east and west side of Detroit. Our little restaurant looked like your average greasy spoon but had you stepped in on any Sunday you would be walking into a room of dramatic hat wearing, bejeweled ladies with their suited and coiffed men waiting for a good meal. A good southern meal.

You see, many people think that soul food is soul food but it really isn't. Or should I say, it isn't all the same. Soul food like any other food is regional. I mean, it's basically the same but slightly different ingredients and methods make all the difference. Let me give you a for instance; I was always taught that a real sweet potato pie is only spiced with nutmeg. Other places in the south might add allspice or cinnamon or both. Some of my friends in the Carolina's will add pecans to their sweet potato pies. A friend of mine from Alabama adds molasses and coconut to her pie. She says her entire county and two counties over use molasses and coconut with their pies. It just depends.

Whenever we went down south from Michigan, I always came back a few pounds heavier. I was a bit envious that my Georgia cousins knew how to 'throw-down' in the kitchen. My cousins were learning all cooking tips from their parents. My dad was the cook in the family but never had the time to teach my sister and I. He was always working.

As years went on, when I was out on my own, I began purchasing cookbooks. My parents, sister and I had traveled a lot when I was younger which made us open minded and adventurous. On those trips, my mom was always trying new things to eat. My dad never would.

I began to eat and cook things that my family had never heard of, much less ate. My children to this day will say how fortunate they were because their mom (me) was always cooking up something unique. They are open minded and adventurous as I am.

I was raving to Mr. Willie about the sale I got on the couscous and he asked me what it was. I explained that it is a pasta mainly from Africa and that I'd had it in Morocco years ago. I told him that I thought he'd like it. He told me no, no couscous for him. He said he was just fine. I laughed and wondered how I was going to get him to try the couscous.

The past few days here in northeast Georgia have been really hot. The temperatures have hit over 100 degrees. No matter how many times we see each other during the week, Mr. Willie and I try to have Sunday dinner together. This past Sunday it was so hot that I was ill all day. Two of his cousins surprised him with a visit from another county this kept him busy. I was relieved.

Monday was hot as heck so I didn't cook. Tuesday was also hot as heck but I just went for it. I had purchased fresh shrimp and blackberries and these things needed to be cooked. -- I made a shrimp casserole which only required about 20 minutes in the oven. The pie's total time in the oven was about 50-55 minutes. After cleaning the shrimp and preparing the pie mixture and with the oven being on, I was exhausted from the house heat already. I was suppose to cook a pot of brown rice to go over the casserole and I had bought eight ears of corn to make fried corn with. Not the oven or grilled fried corn but the kind where you cut off the corn and fry it in a cast iron pot.

It was about 6:15pm and Mr. Willie was due between 7:30-8:00pm. Now, I had plenty of time to do the rice and the corn but the house had just become suffocating. Okay, what to do ? I decided to replace the fried corn with frozen mixed vegetables and the brown rice with, you guessed it, couscous. I had to.

By the time Mr. Willie (arrived at 7:58pm) knocked on the door, the house had cooled down. As I sat the bowl of couscous down I began explaining how the house was just too hot to continue cooking the rice. He interrupted me in mid-sentence and said; "Baby, I'm happy with whatever you cook me." and he smiled.

As it turned out, he loved the shrimp casserole over the couscous. He asked me how I cooked it so fast and said he would like it again.

So, what's my point to all of this ? I guess to say that my horizons were expanded also with cooking Mr. Willie the berry pie. I make pies all the time but would have never done a blackberry pie. I've only know blackberries as something to gather off of my mom's trees on her property in Michigan. They are so plentiful up there that the first time I saw them packaged and for sale at a market, I burst out laughing. I couldn't imagine paying for them.

I'll stop talking now so you can look at the recipe.

Blackberry Pie

I was hot and tired while slitting the top of the pie. It came out okay though !

Have the oven ready at 425 degrees F.


2 pie crusts for a 9 inch pie pan.
2 12 oz packages of fresh blackberries (around 3.5 or 4 cups)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup of white sugar (add a little more if you want a sweet sweet pie)


1 cup of Turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1.5 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon of Merlot (optional)

Now You're Ready to Cook

Have the oven ready at 425 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Line a 9 inch pie pan with half the pastry.

Save remaining pastry for top crust.

Make sure the crusts are kept refrigerated during the preparation.

Combine berries, flour, sugar, wine and lemon juice.

Stir in the melted butter.

Spoon into pie shell.

Cover with top crust, and slash in several places.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, or until browned.

Sounds silly but this amazed me. The berries cooked up so pretty, light and bright.

In the summer months, I never roll a homemade pie crust, I usually buy one. This is a really good one, from Publix of course. There are two crusts for just under $3.00.

Now, I have to find a really good fried green tomatoes recipe !


Joansie said...

Cute story. Mr. Willie is a "keeper". Pie looks great!

Gale said...

are there any leftovers?

Beate said...

Oh- your story is cute. I can sense a great warmth from both your kitchen and your Mr. Willie ;-)
And what a meal!!! I never had fried green tomatoes. I think I will try that dish this summer.

Camille said...

You and Mr. Willie are cute! I didn't know your father had his own restaurant when you were younger. That explains all of that good cooking you do.

芸茂 said...


萱祥 said...


Sheila said...

Enjoyed reading about your cooking history and the pie looks delicious.

Melodye said...

Girlfriend, you've been suckered!! Good thing you love to cook! It sounds wonderful, I'l have to try it sometime.

ImplausibleYarn said...

When you get to the fried green tomatoes part of it please share, I had a similar conversation and I have no idea where to start.

Cat said...

Good looking pie !

Eryka Jackson said...

What a great story. It is amazing what a blackberry pie can inspire. Thanks for the recipe; I have always wanted to try one. I think I'll make it and let you know how it turns out!

jae said...

this looks really good, thanks for the recipie.