Patty Pinner, author of the phenomenal Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories, grew up in a large African-American family that had relocated to Michigan from the South. In Sweety Pies, she collects 70 recipes for various kinds of pies, including fruit, nut, cereal, cream and custard, sweet vegetable, and meringue. Like any good cook, she begins with the basics: an in-depth primer on basic pie crusts with step-by-step instructions for single and double pie crusts, sweet tart crust, how to prebake your pie crust, and a detailed guide (complete with photographs) on decorative crimped edges (flagged edge, pinched, rope, scalloped, lattice top) and finishing your pie (polished top and pie toppers).
But Patty’s heartwarming stories of the lives behind the pie recipes nearly upstages the cookbook function; lavishly illustrated with vintage black-and-white photos, the sassy, classy women in Patty’s young life growing up in Saginaw dominate the pages with a take-no-nonsense attitude, from a jilted wife who one-ups her man by attracting interest from other men until her husband begs to come home, to the glamorous lives of some of her neighbors like Miss Dezarae in her diamonds and mink coats, to her Mama’s own quiet strength and legendary talent in the kitchen. The pie recipes are almost an afterthought from the depths of these snapshots in time.
The pie recipes are simple and clearly explained, although the recipe format is a little unorthodox since the memoirs take center stage (the recipes wrap along the bottom of the memoirs). Sure, there are common recipes such as strawberry rhubarb, apple pie, pecan pie, and sweet potato, but there are some fascinating recipes born of thriftiness, such as Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes pies, white potato pie (basically, mashed potatoes), Orange Tang pie, and a navy bean custard pie. There are also some divine and unexpected pairings such as the coconut pumpkin, apple meringue, and peanut butter cream that are revelations.
The recipes call for simple, normal household ingredients, so you won’t find yourself running off to specialty stores or health food stores trying to track down rarities as with some cookbooks. This is soul food at its best: a warm, sugary blend of fruit, sugar, gossip, and most of all, love, that is a heartwarming gift for any young woman in your life, especially those who are starting out in their own kitchens and looking for a little friendly guidance.
Amazon Affiliate link: Sweety Pies: An Uncommon Collection of Womanish Observations, with Pie