Recently, at a staff meeting at lunch, I tried Sugar Cream Pie for the first time. This is a surprising thing to my co-workers, who have grown up with this concept as part of their lives and as their state pie (who knew that states had official pies?). This pie is a custard-like pie that really just tastes like sweetness, creaminess, and nutmeg, so to me it was like eggnog in a pie.
It made me think about the foods that characterize a place; my coworker talked about how during the Great Depression there was very little fruit available and so people made this pie to be able to have a cheaper alternative to fruit pies. Now, it feels like a can of fruit pie filling is far less expensive than the large amounts of cream and butter needed to make such a pie. It is funny how things shift.
The other aspect is that the pie is very work-intensive; it requires substantial and thoughtful stirring in order to come together in its traditional wiggly and solid form. Many a Sugar Cream Pie has been a semi-liquid. Granted, the liquid probably still tasted good, but just like no one prefers their ice cream melted, there is a bit of risk with making this regional favorite.
That is a risk I want to take though, the risk of getting to know local foods and trying to make them. Sugar Cream Pie isn’t top on my list, but I am fascinated by the backstory and the recipes handed down over generations. It makes me want to raid my mom’s recipe card box and see if something from my childhood is actually a food that goes back a long way in our family. I don’t want all my food knowledge to be based off recipe sites online; there are other ties that make us find food meaningful.