A History of Transparency – or, Pecan Pie

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‘Tis the season, and I thought you might be interested in the humble beginnings of one of America’s favorite holiday desserts.

Transparent, or Syrup, Pie, has been around the US for eons – it uses the most basic of readily available ingredients and even the poorest usually have them on hand: eggs, butter, and a sweetener in the form of whatever’s local (honey, maple, sorghum, cane, molasses).   The Industrial Revolution came along and the US began to have a surplus of corn, and of course, we had to figure out what to do with it, so,  at the beginning of the 20th century, a cheap liquid sugar was invented using cornstarch, by the Corn Products Refining Company – and they called it Karo. 

In the late 1920’s-early 30’s an executive’s wife (of the heretofore mentioned Corn Products Refining Company) made a transparent pie using Karo, and added pecans.  Notice the wife’s name is not in the history books.  As usual in a capitalist society, let’s create that need then fill it!  The CPRC began heavily marketing KARO pie and an American staple was born. 

This same pie, with added cream, is called syrup pie.  It tastes (no WAY!) creamier and more custardy, but is still extremely similar to transparent pie taste.  It’s a little runnier and you need to adjust your solids to your liquids if you’re going to try this avenue.  A great way is to substitute only egg yolks instead of whole eggs as the yolks contain less water than whites.

My bottom line is – if you like historical recipes, go ahead and try Karo Pie (google google google!).  But if you really want a great tasting Pecan Pie, use an original sweetener – my favorite being maple – but that’s for YOU to decide.  I also add bourbon because I’m, well, me!

Sweet Potato or Yam, Ma’am?

Tis the season…and Oh, the drama!  Which is it?  They are NOT related, and another fun fact, the sweet potato isn’t even related to the potato!  First, let’s scientifically (but not TOO scientifically) differentiate:

Sweet Potato:    Originated in Central/South America.  A relative in the Morning Glory family.  Skin a plethora of colors.  Flesh a plethora of colors – the lighter the starchier.   The bad news is…you can never tell the color of the flesh until after you buy them!

Yam:        Originated (and 95% still comes from) Africa/Asia.  A member of the Lily family.   Mostly soft fleshed.  Can grow to over 100 pounds!  Sweet Potatoes are frequently mislabeled in the US because African Americans called them Yams as they resembled them.  Yams are hard to get in the US.  You’d have to go to an international market.  You WILL see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores.  But if you look closely, they are also labeled sweet potatoes, because it’s the law.  A wonderful use of sweet potatoes, on the menu now at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering is our Roasted Sweet Potato Salad! You can order as a side with your lunch or entree at www.lulasforlunch.com  Yummy Yummy!!

National Month of Thanksgiving – Thank YOU to PERKINS!!

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SO!  I try to be “mindful” and grateful all year, but if I don’t address “thanksgiving” in the month of November someone will think I’ve forgotten it!!!  Who can forget the best meal of the year *(in my humble opinion)?!? I switch Christmas up every year, but Thanksgiving must be turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and succotash and winter greens salad and roasted Brussels sprouts.  Ok, I guess it must be pumpkin pie too.  BUT…right now, because of a trip back home (South Carolina if anyone is new to the monthly diatribe); and a literal swerving off of the highway because I spotted that endangered species PERKINS PANCAKE HOUSE, I want to write a grateful irregular ode (to be precise, for my grammar fans) to the breakfast I ate my entire life for lunch, dinner, AND a midnight snack as well.

I miss Perkins.  Perkins used to be ubiquitous where I grew up (SC), and until a few years ago, also in the Midwest.  Perkins has helped form every stage of my life.   I had my first Reuben sandwich at Perkins on a family trip to visit the homestead in Virginia.   The real Reuben, the original.  GRILLED with mustard not thousand island dressing!  I also remember ordering pancakes ANYwhere else and being disappointed.  To this day no restaurant can measure up to the fluffy, light as air, savory unctuousness of Perkins pancakes slathered in butter (no syrup for me thank you – they don’t need it!)

My first husband and I fell in love over Perkins pancakes.  We flirted by hunkering down in the booth and flicking applesauce off of the end of spoons at each other.  Remember the days when a little soufflé of applesauce was a garnish for a plate of pancakes/omelettes etc?  There was also an orange slice and a piece of a kale leaf for garnish.  My best friend Chris was always horrified – “SO bourgeois!!” when I ate the garnish.  He also seemed to think that fortune cookies were to look at not to eat.  I love fortune cookies – they’re not too sweet!  Eat them I will.  By the way…just an FYI…when you receive parsley on your plate as a garnish, the custom comes from actually EATING the parsley offered as a breath freshener!

My first job with a real paycheck (not the first two BUSINESSES I “ran” – the first at 5 when I went door to door selling coloring book pictures for a nickel, and the 2nd at 10 when I handwrote business cards and went door to door selling babysitting services) was at Perkins.  I don’t know when child labor laws were enacted in the US but I was 14 when I worked at Perkins.  This is where I discovered all of the hot cocoa you can drink, with or without marshmallows…I have to say I did get tired of the cocoa, but  bacon and pancakes, never…This job was also my first taste of thankless effort – one time a table of 10 (the largest group I had ever had up until that point) who worked me to death asking for this and that and keeping me running for a couple of hours also flipped me a quarter at the end and said “Here honey, you’re worth every cent!”   I’ll never forget the manager telling me he needed my social security number for my paycheck and I refused, telling him “my parents said NEVER give out your social security number!!”  He was patient and simply said “just go home and ask them – I’ll bet they’ll say it’s ok this time.”

My most recent memorable experience at Perkins occurs at 54 years of age…this time in Sandusky Ohio.  Gordon and I hit Cedar Point every chance we get to ride roller coasters and eat gross park food (corndog, anyone?) before we’re too old and brittle to be able to take it.  Last fall we decided to go to Perkins for breakfast before our big playdate.  We run from ride to ride as if it won’t be there if we’re not fast enough.  We’re giddy and silly and officially 10 years old again.  I guess Gordon thought he could still EAT like a prepubescent boy and he ordered whatever the biggest fried thing on the menu is with all of the sides and 3 PLATES were set before him.  I ordered my old standby, which you can still get if you ask – “The Traveler” which is 2 eggs your way, 2 pancakes, and 2 pieces of sausage or bacon.  I always get the bacon, extra crispy.  Gordon’s plate consisted of a 3 egg omelet (Granny’s Country) and hashbrowns.  For his “bread” side he ordered biscuits.  But he wasn’t satisfied there…no, he had to have a side of sausage gravy to go with those biscuits.  THEN he proceeded, as a matter of honor (or at least a measure of a man) to clean all plates.  We rolled and rumbled to and through the park to our first ride of the day (every time, because it’s STILL our favorite), the Millenium Force.  I’m too busy screaming and laughing to notice his general pallor, swiftly moving from merely pale to green…and I’ll leave it to you to envision the rest of our day.  Suffice it to say, Gordon OWES me a trip to Cedar Point!!!  Honey, are you listening?!?  If you have a favorite restaurant that has woven its way through your life, I’d love for you to share here: http://lulasforlunch.com/ask_lula/mailcode195/contact1.php  And I’ll close, like I began…THANK YOU to PERKINS!!!

No WAY the Holidays are Almost Here!!


We book up FAST for November and December so book your soiree early!!  We are so excited to celebrate with you this season.  We have lots of yummy new flavors to weave into your traditional menus to make new tasty memories! wreath