Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas and Lemon Meringue Pie

It was spring of 1992 and time for the 6th grade, Pickering Valley Junior Bake-Off. I wanted to make something technically difficult, visually stunning and knock-your-socks-off-good. A lemon meringue pie seemed like a winner.

I recall my mother shadowing me in the kitchen offering a tip here and suggestion there but I can say, I made the pie myself and entirely from scratch. I carefully heated the lemon filling over a double boiler, squeezing fresh lemon juice, delicately adding the corn starch and watching little pats of butter melt into smooth, lemony brilliance. I measured the flour and rolled out the pastry crust by hand. Then baked the shell weighed down by hundreds of small aluminum beans. Finally I cracked and separated several eggs, beating the whites into soft, billowy peaks. For a lemon meringue pie, after you pre-bake the shell you spoon the filling in and gently layer the meringue on top, shaping little peaks with the back of your spatula, then return it to the oven for a few more minutes until golden brown.

It was a beauty. 

We let it cool, I put on a nice dress and carefully transported the pie to the school's cafeteria. The room was wall to wall baked goods; chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cup cakes, little cheesecake cups with canned cherry filling and every kind of bar you could imagine. If you didn't know this was a 6th grade baking event you would have thought is was social hour at pretty much any church in America. Each dessert had a name and number for the judges to note and we all waited patiently as our teachers put aside their textbooks and lesson plans for an afternoon to judge our offerings.

I thought I had it in the bag.

When the "critics" had tasted each and every sweet treat, they tallied the results and announced the winners. I don't recall who came in third. It didn't matter. I came in second. Monica H. won the coveted first prize. We were graduating from Elementary School at the end of the year and I had lost my chance at a bake-off glory. I guess I just didn't measure up. What could she have possibly whipped up to beat a lemon meringue pie from scratch? Chocolate Souffle? Tarte Tatin? A motorized three tiered wedding cake?

No, the teachers at my school collectively agreed that chocolate jello pudding scooped into a flower pot, sprinkled with crushed oreo cookies, and laced with gummy worms, with a silk flower stuck in the middle was blue ribbon material.

Well slap me in the face and call me Shirley. Perhaps if I had stuck a few Angels on top of my pie for a "Heavenly" theme I could have won, but that's not my style.

I have never participated in a baking contest since then but it hasn't stopped me from making a lemon meringue pie whenever I get a craving. It's one of my favorites. Chris and I stayed with my parents in Pennsylvania the other night and my mom surprised us with Diana Kennedy's Chicken Enchiladas and my second place pie.

I'd like to ask the judges for a recount because this is definitely Blue Ribbon material.

Garden Salad with Nasturtiums and Jicama
Lemon Meringue Pie

Gardenia's from the Garden


I'll post the recipes when I get back from vacation...


  1. Aren't you going to tell everyone about when you were four years old and STEPPED in a lemon meringue pie? Oops, guess I just did . . .

  2. What a travesty!! Your pie was absolutley the winner, just to
    refined for the judges pedestrian tastes, obviously. Jello and Oreos?? Ugh!

  3. Where did your mom get that quilt in the bottom picture? My mother-in-law has one exactly exactly like it from her mother.

    The pie looks stunning (and I am sorry for being a blog lurker, I really enjoy your blog)

  4. Dear Lauren, The quilt came from Erica's grandmother's family (my mother). It was just a quilt top until my cousins finished it for me just a few years ago, so it looks quite new. I believe the pattern is called "Dresden Plate".

  5. Dirt Cake...really???...indeed that is a travesty! Your pie looks perfect! I can just smell those gardenias (my favorite) and yes, judy, the pattern is a Dresden Plate. love you both! (and love that lamp! :D)

  6. Haha! Still bitter over 6th grade, huh? I don't remember that baking contest, but I would've give you first place Erica :)

  7. Remember when we used to have Lemon Meringue Pie every Fourth of July, for Graham's birthday (the 3rd)? Mmmmmmm.