On our way, we stopped frequently at McDonald's for bathroom breaks and refreshments (our favorites were orange drink and cookies). My grandmother also spent a lot of the trip telling my grandfather that he was "driving like a bat out of hell" (he couldn't have been going more than 65 max in that Fairmont and that was the speed limit), which made my brother and I giggle quietly in the back seat. All of this meant that what should have been a three hour trip usually took more like five. Mark and I usually rode with a ham or turkey between us (my grandmother rarely goes to visit anyone without taking food) with NO DVD player or other electronic entertainment device. Of course, we were always on our best behavior under threat of death from our parents.
Anyway, there was one trip in particular that I was reminded of as I made the following dessert. This trip took place some summer in the late 80s and once we made it to Kansas City and had the requisite conversations about the traffic in the city with our relatives, we were off to Shoney's for lunch. I'm not sure why we went to Shoney's or whose idea it was and I don't remember anything else about being there except that I have a vivid memory of all of us eating strawberry pie for dessert. I had never eaten strawberry pie before--at least nothing that looked like this. This was one of those strawberry pies that was piled high with hulled berries that were enhanced with a shiny red glaze and then topped with lots of whipped cream. It kind of looked like this, but with more whipped cream.
I don't remember it being an especially good pie, but just something different. As we finished our meal, something happened that I never saw before or after: my grandmother, the queen of the kitchen who made almost everything from scratch purchased not one, but two of these pies to take back to my great grandparents' house. I was scandalized and I have never forgotten The Day My Grandmother Bought Pie.
So, fast forward to June 22, 2008 and my version of strawberry pie. I decided to make several small "pies" instead of one large one and used a graham cracker crust instead of a traditional one. I kind of cobbled this together using a few recipes and then did my own thing, so here it is:
Start the glaze by combining water, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan.
Heat slowly until it comes to a boil, whisking occasionally (look, Grambi--it's my new whisk!)
Boil until the mixture thickens and becomes clear. At this point, you can add red food coloring to make it prettier, but I only had blue and I didn't think that would look very good. Maybe a patriotic possibility for July 4th, though...
In the meantime, I made the crust by crushing graham crackers and adding melted butter and sugar.
Fill each small dish with graham cracker crust and press mixture into the dish.
Then I put the dishes into the freezer to set up until my filling is ready.
Once the glaze was done, I let it cool a little while I sliced the strawberries and then I added them to the glaze and spooned the mixture into the prepared dishes.
I let the "pies" set up in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half and then begin preparing my whipped cream (hence the title of this post).
Pour heavy cream into a bowl.
Whip with whisk attachment after adding a little powdered sugar.
Continue to whip until stiff peaks are formed.
Top "pie" with whipped cream.
This was tasty. If I made these again, I would add a little less sugar to the glaze and maybe a little lemon juice so that the flavor would be more complex, but for something that I made up, this was pretty good.
So, here's to you, Grambi and Papaw, in honor of your upcoming birthdays and in thanks for the many hilarious and unforgettable road trips to KC, including The Day My Grandmother Bought Pie. I think I speak for both of us when I say that we are grateful to have had the chance to spend so much time with both of you and also with our great grandparents--not everyone gets that chance. I'll eat my strawberry pies while thinking of you.