Over 50 years ago, Nelle Harper Lee wrote a book. It is a book that teachers and students have always loved. It is written from the perspective of a small-town child about racism and an abiding commitment to truth, set in the South of the 1930s.
Published July 11, 1960, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Ala. Ms. Lee’s only novel was said to be a homage to her father, a small-town lawyer in Monroeville.
Winning a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, the book was produced into a movie in 1962 and won Oscars for its leading actor Gregory Peck, art direction, and screenplay.
In Monroeville, the very courthouse where Lee’s daddy argued cases was the inspiration for the set of the movie and is now a museum dedicated to the book.
For faithful “Mockingbird” lovers, a pilgrimage to Monroeville is justly required if not to simply attend the springtime play produced and acted by locals who become Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia, Tom, Miss Maudie, and Dill. Just standing in the courtroom is special to view the timeline and vignettes in the Old Courthouse Museum.
Truman Capote, a childhood friend of Lee and reputedly the inspiration for her character Dill, Scout’s friend in the novel, is the topic of another well-documented display in the museum regarding his early life in Monroeville.
When I asked Sandy Smith, the executive director of the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, what dessert she’d serve on a humid Monroeville (or Maycomb) evening, she offered us her grandmother’s recipe for a cooling lemon pie along with a slice of Monroeville.
“This is my grandmother’s recipe. I think anything with meringue is a typical Southern recipe, although I have noticed you do not see as much of this as you used to.”
“This was the traditional dessert, following a meal of fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, pimento cheese sandwiches, and homegrown tomatoes. My mother also used to fry chicken—and it was the best! I usually get mine from our local deli—how times have changed!”
- 5 eggs (save 3 for meringue)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons water
- Juice of 2 1/2 lemons
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1/2 stick butter
- 9–inch pie shell
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sandy continued: “The best thing about Monroeville is the people and the quality of life; this is a great place to live and raise a family. I love Monroeville for its small town feel, its friendliness—and there [are] no traffic lines.
“Because of Monroeville’s Harper Lee connection, we get lots of visitors—I think they enjoy the small town, the Mayberry feel of the town! In this town, people know when you are a visitor, and they really reach out to make you feel at home.”
For more information about Monroeville, visit: www.monroecountry and www.tokillamockingbird.com.
With an electric mixer, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add water gradually, continuing to beat. Add lemon juice and lemon rind.
Put all of this in a double boiler over hot water. Add butter and cook until thick, stirring frequently.
Put mixture into a baked pie shell. Top with meringue (recipe below). Bake 325 F for 15 to 20 minutes, until meringue is a light golden brown.
Combine 2 tablespoons sugar with cornstarch in small saucepan. Add water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and clear.
In a bowl, beat egg whites with salt and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, beating after each addition. Add the hot mixture, and continue beating until meringue displays peaks. Spoon meringue over pie. Bake as directed above. Serve when cool.
Michelle M. Winner is a regular contributor to The Epoch Times as the “Culinary Traveler” and writes for luxury, spa, culinary, and corporate incentive travel markets. She is the vice president of IFWTWA.
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