My grandmother is a great cook. Everything she makes is delicious, but the two things that our family gatherings wouldn't be complete without are her iced tea and black bottom pie. Nana has four boys (one of whom is my father) and they all still live within close proximity to her. Add to that a large handful of grandchildren, and Nana makes 2 gallons of iced tea EVERY day and has for the last 50 years. She usually brings about four gallons to family gatherings and we drink every drop.
On several occasions, my mother has offered to bring tea so that Nana doesn't have to make so much. At the risk of being accused of heresy by my cousins, I will add that sometimes mom's tea is better than Nana's But no one will drink it- not even a glass is poured because it is not Nana's tea. Her offspring is nothing if not incredibly loyal. Mom finally took the hint and doesn't offer to take tea to family gatherings any more.
Nana's other signature dish is black bottom pie. It is so famous that she has to spend a whole day baking at Thanksgiving and Christmas to fill all the orders. A few years ago, my cousin's wife (who we love) made a black bottom pie and brought it to Christmas dinner. I am sure Nana had given her the recipe, but Nicole hadn't learned the Taylor mantra- if Nana didn't make it, the boys won't eat it. Nicole is a fabulous cook, but out of fear of being branded a traitor, no one even tasted her pie.
You can understand my hesitation about attempting to make my own black bottom pie. First of all, it is a hard recipe. Nana has written it down for me 3 times, and each recipe is just a little bit different. Second, I know that none of my extended family will eat it. But since we live over 200 miles away from the rest of the clan, I realized if I wanted to enjoy it, I would have to take matters into my own hands.
I think one of the most isolating aspects of Virginia's cerebral palsy is the difficulty she has eating. It keeps her (and us) from participating in lots of events because I don't think it is right for us to sit around and eat in front of her if she can't partake. The guilt I feel at enjoying something she can't is tremendous, so I am always on the lookout for recipes that all five of us can enjoy.
One of Virginia's favorite things is Nana's black bottom pie. My dad (without my permission, I might add) gave Sissy her first bite at Thanksgiving when she was only 7 weeks old. Honestly, we were all still in shock from the events of her birth and trying to keep the sorrow at bay. Dad was just trying at add a little levity to the situation, but she was hooked. So after much internal debate about loyalty to Nana, I finally attempted my first pie last weekend. It was delicious (if I do say so myself), although I am sure none of the Taylor clan would have eaten it!
My father (with his partner in crime, my father-in-law) sneaking Virginia her first bite, Thanksgiving of 2003
My niece, Eleanor, was a big help with my first pie. She is much more diligent at watching the double boiler than I am!
Even Wills got in on the action.
Wills, Virginia and Eleanor are about to enjoy their finished product.
Okay, this is the funniest part to me. Eliza will not take a bottle. She refuses to eat even a bite of rice cereal or any other baby food. When she sees the spoon coming, she throws her hands in front of her face and arches backwards in protest. However, she is following in the family tradition of loving Nana's pie. I know, now she'll never eat rice cereal. But that's ok. I have laughed so hard thinking about her devouring the pie that it was worth it! (By the way, I am open to any suggestions to get this baby girl to take a bottle. We have tried everything!)
She is intently watching every bite, hoping for more.
Is there any left, Daddy?