My 94-year-old grandmother recently moved out of the house in which she raised nine children to a more reasonably sized home — smaller, fewer stairs, and just generally easier to deal with. In the process of clearing out decades of accumulated treasures and trash, one of my aunts salvaged the “battered red-metal box” which held Grandma’s recipe collection. My aunts and uncles all agree that there was nothing particularly special about her cooking. And I can’t really blame her. With eleven mouths to feed, I would rely on spaghetti, tuna noodle casserole, and similar easy-prep dishes, too. “She always collected recipes, but that’s about as far as it went,” as her youngest son put it.
From the red box, my aunt created a combination scrapbook and recipe collection, weaving beloved favorite dishes into a narrative of family history. When our copy arrived in the mail, we flipped through it — and for some reason Buzz decided he really wanted to try this recipe…
Lemon Magic Pie
9″ prebaked pie shell, cooled
1 large tub Cool Whip [9 oz]
1 small can lemonade concentrate, thawed [6 oz]
2 T. lemon juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Mix last 4 ingredients together until smooth.
Pour into pie shell.
Refrigerate 6 hours or overnite.
You might think a refrigerator pie is an odd choice for February, but South Carolina is having a weird 70°F winter, so it’s not all that out-of-season.
In the bowl, this looked pretty nasty. Not terribly “magic” yet. It didn’t help that this particular brand of sweetened condensed milk tends to be more brown than beige, adding an unpleasant tinge to the glop.
Buzz finished mixing everything together until smooth and then dipped in a finger to taste. “Argh!”
(I personally didn’t find it to be as terrible as Buzz, who proclaimed it one of the worst things he’d ever tasted. It wasn’t that great, though.)
But it went into the pie crust to chill and solidify anyway. (Maybe the refrigerator will be magic?)
Ironically, the only person who really loathed this pie was the one who’d wanted to make it so much in the first place — Buzz thought it was terrible. I can see his point, since it’s cloyingly sweet and the lemon tastes more like fake citrus than fresh lemonade, a bad combination. On the other hand, very sugary creamy fruit flavors are a huge hit with the kids, and while I don’t think this is gourmet lemon pie, it isn’t all that bad. (Rather dense and overly sweet, but not THAT bad.) In a mid-century household used to lots of packaged foods, this would have fit right in.