I grew up in suburbia. I know nothing of Lions Clubs, baby pageants and cake walks.
Over the July Fourth weekend, I traveled with my husband and toddler to the Midwest. Besides visiting my husband’s relatives, our main reason was to attend the annual July Fourth picnic in Alma, Mo. (population: 402).
Alma (pronounced AL-ma) is my husband’s hometown, and his grandmother, Marcile Ehlers, lives six miles away in Corder, Mo.
The picnic, an annual two-day affair, is the most Americana event I have ever experienced. A middle school band performed songs I could not quite recognize in the park’s gazebo. Men and teenagers taunted baseball throwers at the dunk tank. My daughter won prizes playing a Plinko game run by the 4-H club. People square danced as a fiddler performed. There was the cake walk where lucky winners walked away with a homemade cake; cost to enter: 50 cents.
Then there was the baby pageant, which I decided my 3-year-old daughter had to enter.
I soon discovered that I had not properly prepared for the occasion. My daughter was dressed in a pink Hello Kitty outfit. All the other competitors were decked out in red, white and blue. Most girls wore bows in their hair. Some wore sequins. Others tutus. One girl in my daughter’s age bracket was wearing tap shoes.
My daughter did not place and so did not get her picture in the local paper, which would have so tickled grandma. My daughter didn’t seem to mind. She wanted to know if she could go back on stage when we returned to the picnic the next day.
We got over our disappointment by sitting down at the Santa Fe Ball Association’s pie and ice cream stand. To my delight, they were serving gooseberry pie!
I have written before about my longing to taste gooseberries, which are grown in Missouri but outlawed in North Carolina because the plants can host a fungal disease that threatens white pines. My only taste of a gooseberry involved at least 14-year-old frozen ones Grandma Marcile has in her freezer, which hardly compare to fresh.
I’m glad we got to the pie tent when we did because they wiped gooseberry pie off the menu board after I placed my order. The homemade crust was perfect. The berries were tart but the filling was sweet. It was delicious.
My husband and I shared four pieces of pie between us. The next night, I resolved to forgo my Lions Club hamburger and just eat pie for dinner. That’s exactly what I did.
I was unable to catch up with anyone from the Santa Fe Ball Association to track down any recipes. But I was able to wrangle this chocolate pie recipe out of an Ehlers’ family friend who served us pie during our visit.
As I told my husband, I would spend every Fourth of July in Alma, Mo., if it means I can eat my fill of pie.
From Patty Liese of Corder, Mo.; adapted from “Better Homes & Garden Baking” (2013).
1 unbaked pie crust
1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg substitute
Prepare pie crust per package directions. Let cool.
Melt chocolate in the top part of a double boiler on low heat. If you do not have a double boiler, place chocolate in a small glass or metal bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water. (You want the bowl to rest on top of the saucepan but not touch the water.) Stir until the chocolate melts. Once melted, remove from heat and let cool.
Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, about 4 minutes or until fluffy. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add egg substitute, beating on high speed until light and fluffy. Constantly scrape bowl down to fully combine.
Transfer filling to pie crust; spread to evenly fill crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Top with real whipped cream and chocolate shavings before serving.
Yield: 8 servings.