Elvis was a man who knew music, pie

Published 12:20 pm Monday, September 24, 2012

We have been on the road again and this time to Memphis, Tenn., to see Graceland and to Tupelo, Miss., to visit the birthplace of Elvis. We took my sister and her son on this trip and really thought we would not enjoy it as much as we did. This year was the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death, and we missed the anniversary by a week. Lucky for us, since so many people do come for that specific time. Elvis was the “King,” and when you see him entertaining in his prime he was just so good!

Elvis was born in a two-room house in Tupelo. It was very small, and you can see how poor his family had been so the move was made to Memphis when he was 12. Elvis learned to sing in his church choir at an early age, and the church is on the museum property at this point in time and it was strange to think that Elvis sang is this church. If you have time go to Tupelo and visit the Elvis museum, home and church. It is worth the trip. Tupelo has done a great job on their restorations and museum building and exhibits.

Our first food event was lunch (probably better termed “dinner”) at The Cupboard, a famous old restaurant at 1400 Union Ave. in downtown Memphis. We had heard about it on NPR from The Stern’s on The Splendid Table. They were raving about it because of the lemon pie. The Cupboard, which has been around for 70 years, is a restaurant for the locals with a meat-and-three-sides taste. If you want Southern food, this is the place to go. You can get fried chicken, fried fish and a host of vegetable options, eggplant casserole, fried green tomatoes (my favorite), broccoli casserole, greens, beans, mashed potatoes, and of course, there is that lemon pie. I saved a little room for dessert, and I will say the lemon pie was the best of all. I read that the lady who makes the pies only uses real lemon juice and two eggs for each pie. They do use sweetened condensed milk, although the cookbook recipe, available for sale at the restaurant, does not.

The afternoon was spent at Graceland. It should be on your to see list.

While in Memphis, we did see the ducks at the old Peabody Hotel and went to the famous old restaurant The Rendezvous in a basement nearby. We did not have their famous dry or wet ribs (still full from the Cupboard), but just a really fabulous barbecue sandwich. Tupelo had one restaurant that everyone seemed to know about called The Grille. We did have a good sandwich and garlic fries for lunch the next day. I wanted to try their Hershey Pie, but just not enough room.

I decided to make a lemon pie like the one at The Cupboard and got out my cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose. Her recipe was very similar to the one in The Cupboard Cookbook (one I did not buy, but looked at the recipe). I did find some information about sweetened condensed milk. Prior to refrigeration, there was no way to safely keep milk for more than a few hours. Gail Borden used vacuum pans to condense fresh milk by evaporation more than 60 percent of the water and sweetening the residue. After several failed attempts, he was granted a patent in 1854 for his new product, shelf-stable milk. It fueled the Union troops during the War Between the States. Borden’s plants in New York, Connecticut and Maine were commandeered to supply milk for the troops. However, Gail Borden lived in Liberty, Miss., just down the road from us and that is where he developed the condensed milk.



Makes one 9-inch pie

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter melted

2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

4 large egg yolks (The Cupboard only uses 2 egg yolks)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter. Pat into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan and bake for six to eight minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the milk, yolks, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the lemon filling into the cooled crust. Bake for 10 minutes, until set. Cool on a rack. Chill the pie for 30 minutes.

When the pie is completely cooled, whip the cream with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff peaks form. Mound the whipped cream on top of the pie and chill for one hour.

If you prefer a meringue topping:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.


4 large egg whites

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

5 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the egg whites in an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and slowly increase the speed as the egg whites become opaque. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Whip until the whites form a soft peak. Spoon the meringue over the warm pie.

Bake for four (4) minutes, or until the meringue is puffed and brown. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, and then refrigerate for two hours – or until you can’t stand it anymore.