In the movie Cross Creek, there’s a shot of a marvelous wedge of pecan pie just oozing with flavor. Not a word is said, the photo says it all — in about a thousand calories. And that picture personifies why cooking my way through Cross Creek Cookery is going to be fattening.
Even Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings cut calories from some recipes professing a tendency towards plumpness. She kept a scale nearby, and it wasn’t for food. In fact, she had two human scales — one in each bath. (I bet she hid them when she invited the neighbors over to tour her bathroom, the first indoor one in Cross Creek.)
The movie inspired my first Cross Creek Cookery cooking adventure – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie. I used a cup and half of pecans from a tree just around the corner. Neighbor John Adams planted it in his front yard a few years ago and shares his bounty with the neighbors — and a few persistent squirrels. I don’t know which of the 500 varieties his pecans are, but they look like Stuarts, which grow well here in the Florida Panhandle as well as Northern Florida. Rawlings would probably have used the same type.
The pie lives up to its name – deadly, delicious and sweet, sweet, sweet. I followed Marjorie’s recipe to a T, but was wise enough to begin with something I had cooked before, even though my own recipe differs a little. If I had started with Ox-tail Pilau or Minorcan Gopher Stew, I would have been lost.
There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to cooking 75-year-old recipes. For example —
- Cross Creek Cookery is not for beginners – unless they have beginner’s luck. I knew better
than to pour beaten eggs into a hot mixture, even a little at a time. But I trusted Marjorie. Bad choice. I eventually strained my gooey mess, started over and used a technique I had learned from my mother to add a few hot drops to the eggs first to warm them up. In her defense, Marjorie probably used warm eggs right out of the hen house.
- Wal-Mart doesn’t have everything. If you’re looking for cane syrup or other ingredients unique to a region, try a smaller store. I eventually found Steen’s Cane Syrup at Winn Dixie, a Southern chain (as the name implies). Wal-Mart only carries “cane flavored syrup.”
- Marjorie’s stove is different from mine. The recipe calls for a moderate oven. I had to google “moderate oven” and set it to 350 degrees.
- Her vocabulary is that of a writer. She describes her pecan pie as a confection, but I didn’t really know what she meant from the connotation in the text. I had to look that one up, too, and learned a confection is a very sweet food. No doubt about that when I tasted the pie.
Since I love pecans, I look forward to trying some other Cross Creek Cookery pecan recipes: Pecan Patties, Pecan Cream Torte, and Pecan Soufflé. I’m not too sure about the Jellied Pecans with Grapefruit, but I’ve got everything I need – more pecans from John and grapefruit from another neighbor.
There’s not a pecan gumbo recipe in Cross Creek Cookery, but here’s one that looks interesting enough to try when our vegetarian son comes for a visit. Click below to view vegetarian gumbo using protein from pecans.