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The Pie Lady

Story ID:1239
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Person:Nancy Kopp
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The Pie Lady

By Nancy Julien Kopp

I pushed my cart through our local grocery store, intent on the list in my hand. As I pulled a box of rice off the shelf, a hand grasped my forearm.

“Nancy, I’m still making your lemon pie. We can’t have Thanksgiving at our house without it.”

Before I could respond, the longtime acquaintance had reached the end of the aisle and disappeared, but memories of my claim to fame stayed with me as I continued my shopping.

Many years earlier, I won the grand prize in a newspaper sponsored recipe contest, which enticed readers to enter by offering a first, second, and third prize in each of several categories and a grand prize for the best recipe submitted. I’d never entered a contest of this sort in my life, but some little kitchen angel must have whispered in my ear in June of 1982 urging me to submit some of my favorite dishes.

I sorted through my recipe box, mentally saving or eliminating each possibility. These were recipes I’d collected from my mother, from friends, and the scores I’d clipped out of magazines and newspapers. I pulled out the ones that appealed to me, and they ended up in a messy little pile on the table. I flipped through them a dozen times and finally picked out four that I might submit in various categories.

I checked the submission rules, typed the recipes and mailed them the next day. The winners would be announced in mid-November, a full five months away. And then I completely put it out of my mind.

In early November, I received a phone call from the Food Editor of the Wichita Eagle-Beacon newspaper. She bubbled merrily on about winning a prize in their contest. The woman had to tell me more than once because I had no idea what she was talking about, until I remembered that I had sent some recipes in months earlier. She asked what day a photographer could come to my home, which was two hours north of Wichita. She wouldn’t tell me what I’d won, but she did say the photographer would bring my prize with him. Probably a new whisk, I mused, after we settled on a time for him to take my picture and deliver my prize.

Before we ended our conversation, the editor said, “We prepare the recipes we like best in our test kitchens here at the paper, and then we have the entire staff taste-test each one and rate it. Your Sour Cream Lemon Pie received the highest rating we’ve ever had.” Click went the line. She was gone. I held the dead phone in my hand and allowed myself to believe the news she’d delivered.

Highest rating? I finally allowed a bit of excitement to rise. Maybe I’d won first prize in the Dessert category. Perhaps it was only third place. Time would tell.

A few days later the photographer arrived and snapped several pictures of me and my very excited ten-year-old daughter in our kitchen.

He chatted as he worked. “Boy--that was some pie. No wonder it won. Wait until you see what your prize is.”

He ran out to his truck and struggled in with a large box and set it down on the kitchen counter. “Here’s your Microwave-Convection Oven.” His mustache quivered as he broke into a wide grin. He appeared as happy as I felt.

I’d won the Grand Prize, and the only words which described me at this point were ‘shocked but thrilled.’ Microwave ovens weren’t as commonplace then as they are now, and I didn’t have one. And to have the combination microwave-convection oven—well, that was something. My children and my husband were as thrilled as I.

Word spread through our circle of friends, and soon an editor from our local paper called and asked if she could do a Cook of the Week story about me and my prize pie. Suddenly, I’d achieved celebrity status. The young woman who edited the food section arrived with a photographer for the interview. She asked for the pie recipe and other favorites. To my surprise, the article turned out to be a full page and included text, pictures and recipes. The phone rang a lot that week, and I received congratulations at every function I attended, even as I shopped.

The months went on, and the compliments on my Sour Cream Lemon Pie continued. Even now, twenty-four years later, someone occasionally mentions that pie. The other day my daughter asked me to bring one for Thanksgiving Dinner. By now, I could make it with my eyes closed, don’t even need the recipe in front of me. It’s still one of my favorites. That first bite is creamy and tart with a hint of sweetness in the topping. Maybe I’ll make one today to make sure I haven’t lost my touch.

Nancy’s Sour Cream Lemon Pie

1 c sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
¼ c. margarine or butter
1/3 c. lemon juice
grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks
1 c. milk
1 c. sour cream
1 nine inch pie shell, baked

1 c. whipiing cream
1 to 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add the butter, lemon juice, rind, egg yolks and milk. Cook and stir over Medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken. Remove from heat and fold in the sour cream. Pour into baked pie shell and cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled. Whip the cream until stiff. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread over pie and sprinkle with a little more lemon rind if you like. Serves 8

Note: I have tired making the pie with 1% milk and light sour cream to cut down on calories and fat, and the pie still tastes great.