Southerners know how to do pie. It's true. From Sweet Potato to Southern Pecan, this is the time of year to pull up a seat and enjoy a piece of pie with a story. A pie like Chess Pie. Many folks disagree on the origin of the name, but there are plenty of good guesses. The most popular (and the one I've been told by my own family) is that since the word "chess" is an Americanization of the English word "cheese," the name of the pie is probably referring to an old-fashioned curd or cheese pie. As Nancy McDermott explains in her book Southern Pies, "Some say [the name is derived from] 'chest' because the pie would have been stored in a pie safe, a wooden cupboard with deep shelves." Southern Living mentions how gentlemen were served this sweet pie as they retreated to a room to play chess. However, others insist that it was derived from Southerners' dialect: It's jes' pie (it's just pie).
It looks as though a consensus won't be reached anytime soon. But one thing is for sure: the ingredients are virtually always the same. A Chess Pie always features four main staples from Southern farm life at the turn of the century: flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Today pastry chefs, recipe developers, and home cooks alike do modern spins on the classic but it's such a wonderful pie because of its simplicity and American roots. We thought we'd gather together a few Chess Pie recipes for you to try. Who knows? Maybe this year's Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie will be replaced with a Southern classic.
Megan is a freelance writer and recipe developer. Her cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings, will be available in bookstores nationwide Dec/2013. Megan also owns the Seattle-based artisan cereal company, Marge Granola.
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