The Santa Ana winds they are a-kicking up and, barring the devastating fires and pesky allergy attacks, I am thoroughly relishing it. The zealous cheerleader pom-pom trees, the polka dance of copper leaves on the scratchy sidewalk, the newspaper vending machines rattling, everything on the boulevard in animated motion and alive.  The day whistling, the night howling.  Love it.

Little known fact, I grew up in Chicago — “the windy city”, more relevantly — in an idyllically urban neighborhood, best portrayed as paint-by-number vintage Americana; daubs of paint applied a tad heavy handed around the demarcation lines, tertiary accent colors bleeding artfully into each other.  Our locale patchworked with those possessing German, Italian, Polish or Irish lineage, but also with the delegation from Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Mexico and Romania.  A few of the women originally from the “old country” adorned with warts, heavy accents and wispy moustaches.

Half of the neighborhood kids, including my brother and I, attended St. Philomena (a parochial elementary school), while the remainder were zoned for Nixon (the local public school).  During the academic year we were fierce and staunch rivals, but as soon as summer’s first beach ball was inflated we forged a temporarily alliance for such bucolic pasttimes as touch football, kick the can, the climbing of trees and flattening pennies on the elevated railroad tracks (quite illegal).

Just a few blocks from our house was the site of a Schwinn bicycle factory where we were able to wrangle a decent discount on my blue & sparkly white banana seat bike.  Back in the day, you were utterly unhip if you didn’t own a banana seater and instead rode around in a cruiser, as is more fashionable these days.  Parking spaces on both sides of our street were besieged by their employees’ Camaros, Trans Ams and Corvettes (the white Stingray, my then coveted car).  No one really objected since we had alleys and my parents parked our primarily weekend utilized car in the garage, as did everyone else.

A particular summer, some not so Midwestern people moved in two doors down.  A separate family occupied the basement level of the 2 story-house and two twenty-something bachelor brothers held fort on the first floor. Daryl and his other brother Daryl type of siblings.  The older brother was named Curtis and the younger was named Dwight. With no outward sanguinuity or similarity other than the prevalent twang, the two floors had both coincidentally traveled up from deep southern Alabama (pronounced al-uh-bahym-uh).

I became fast friends with Dwight because he chose me to zip around with him on the back of his motorcycle and also because he had a pet boa constrictor which he wrapped around his lean, naked torso — not so much Nastassja Kinski style, but moreso rock star T.Rex’s Marc Bolan.

In honor of the Alabamian neighbors from my cherished childhood, I invite you to try this traditional Southern treat with a decidedly tart name: Buttermilk Pie.  It has a sweet custard texture, laced with a slight tang from the buttermilk and light sugary crisp top layer. Here, I used a buttery pâte brisée (more commonly used for tarts), however, any ready made pie crust will do.

Buttermilk Pie

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell (pâte brisée or store bought)
  • flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 F.Beat eggs slightly and add sugar and flour. Add melted butter and mix well. Add buttermilk, heavy cream and vanilla and mix. Dust the unbaked pie shell with a little bit of flour. Pour batter into shell and dust a little more flour on top.Bake at 350 F until custard is set, approximately 45 minutes. Chill 2 hours before serving.

Pâte Brisée

  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 c unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c ice water

In a medium bowl combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and rub into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, tossing lightly with fork until dough holds together (about 4-6 tablespoons). Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Roll out one dough partition and form into pie pan.

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies.


Corky Nepomuceno

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