Mom found pleasing our family as easy as pie

Apple pie generally rates as America’s favorite pie; it certainly was the favorite of writer Bill King’s dad. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY F. CUNNINGHAM
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Apple pie generally rates as America’s favorite pie; it certainly was the favorite of writer Bill King’s dad. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY F. CUNNINGHAM

There never was a shortage of delicious desserts in our house when I was growing up.

My mother, Mollie Parry King, had a sweet tooth, as well as a knack for baking and pastry-making. That meant she always was turning out tasty treats, including a pound cake that my wife and daughter swear is the best they’ve ever had.

Despite that, we really were a pie family, influenced in no small part by my father, the first of three generations of Bill King. One of my earliest memories is Dad mimicking a TV commercial done by a folksy Mississippi-born sportscaster in the 1950s. Dad would drawl, "I'm Red Barber, and I laaak pie!"

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Writer Bill King and his mother, Mollie Parry King, are seen in the late 1990s. Her knack for pastry made her family pie lovers. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY

Writer Bill King and his mother, Mollie Parry King, are seen in the late 1990s. Her knack for pastry made her family pie lovers. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY
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Writer Bill King and his mother, Mollie Parry King, are seen in the late 1990s. Her knack for pastry made her family pie lovers. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY

When Mom would offer a variety of dessert options, as she routinely did, Dad would say he’d have “the variety plate,” meaning a small slice of everything. However, he always preferred pie over just about any other dessert — especially apple pie.

Dad loved just munching on a juicy Yates or Winesap. But, a hot, fresh slice of Mom’s apple pie, maybe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top, was his favorite.

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A slice of apple pie was the favorite dessert choice of William D. King, writer Bill King’s father. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY F. CUNNINGHAM

A slice of apple pie was the favorite dessert choice of William D. King, writer Bill King’s father. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY F. CUNNINGHAM
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A slice of apple pie was the favorite dessert choice of William D. King, writer Bill King’s father. CONTRIBUTED BY MARY F. CUNNINGHAM

Not that he turned up his nose at Mom’s peach pie or peach cobbler — she made both all year long from fresh peaches she’d frozen during the summer.

But, while those fruit pies might have topped Dad’s list, they were far from the only offerings in Mom’s house of pies, with choices ranging from strawberry to chocolate to cherry delight (my brother Jonathan’s favorite). Come the holidays, she served pecan pie and two varieties of pumpkin pie, always pleasing my son Bill. Then, there were the savory pies, like pork, chicken or beef.

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The interplay of tart and sweet is part of what makes cherry pie so special. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

The interplay of tart and sweet is part of what makes cherry pie so special. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING
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The interplay of tart and sweet is part of what makes cherry pie so special. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

All told, we enjoyed a wealth of fillings encased in my mother’s buttery, flaky homemade pastry, which was a work of art.

Most of us in this country love a good cake, but pie-eating seems to be as American as, well, you know. After all, you see lots of pie-eating contests, from county fairs up to the national level; you don’t see cake-eating contests. And, a pie in the face is a comedy classic. The only time you ever really see that with cake is when the bride and groom smush wedding cake into each other’s faces, and that mostly makes me cringe.

I even have a favorite pie movie — “Waitress,” a whimsical comedy-drama starring Keri Russell as a young woman who deals with adversity by whipping up pies with names like I Hate My Husband Pie (lots of bittersweet chocolate). And then there was the “damn fine cherry pie” in “Twin Peaks.”

Also, don't forget that pizza is a pie. In fact, a poll showed it's America's second-favorite pie, after apple.

Anyway, besides the standards like apple and cherry (which has a wonderful interplay of tart and sweet), my favorite of Mom’s pies was her lemon meringue. I remember she added lemon zest to the filling.

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Mollie Parry King, writer Bill King’s mother, was known for her desserts, especially anything involving pastry. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY

Mollie Parry King, writer Bill King’s mother, was known for her desserts, especially anything involving pastry. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY
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Mollie Parry King, writer Bill King’s mother, was known for her desserts, especially anything involving pastry. CONTRIBUTED BY THE KING FAMILY

Even after Mom was gone, pies remained a part of family gatherings. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the time we bought a lemon pie for one holiday meal, only to find no pie in the grocery bag when we got home. (A pie thief must rank among society’s dregs.)

My pie taste has broadened over the years. I don’t recall Mom making it very often, but, once I was grown-up, Key lime pie became a favorite. My wife Leslie and I had a particularly outstanding Key lime pie on vacation one year near Charleston, South Carolina.

Getting to know my wife’s family included new pies, too. My mother-in-law, Doe Doe Thornton, was known for something called “green pie” (made with lime Jell-O, lime juice and Carnation milk), and a delicious brownie pie that was just what the name implies.

Pie is an international thing, too. I remember Mom’s story about when her father in Wales made a rhubarb pie for the first time. Not knowing any better, he didn’t cut up the stalks of rhubarb, making for a rather unwieldy dish baked in a rectangular bread pan.

Ironically, I don’t remember Mom making rhubarb pie when I was young. The first time I actually had it was when we were staying with my Uncle Bill and Auntie Joan in Wales; it was pretty good. Mom later started making a strawberry-rhubarb pie after she and my youngest brother, Tim, planted rhubarb in the little garden she had off the back patio.

Speaking of Britain, I recall one year we were in the U.K. and the fad there in restaurants was “Mississippi mud pie.” Funnily enough, no one seemed sure what it was, with that name on a different concoction everywhere we tried it.

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Whether it’s the best in the world, or just the best in New York City, Junior’s cheesecake was a highlight of a trip to Brooklyn for writer Bill King and his daughter Olivia. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

Whether it’s the best in the world, or just the best in New York City, Junior’s cheesecake was a highlight of a trip to Brooklyn for writer Bill King and his daughter Olivia. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING
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Whether it’s the best in the world, or just the best in New York City, Junior’s cheesecake was a highlight of a trip to Brooklyn for writer Bill King and his daughter Olivia. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

Another trip that added to our pie hall of fame came when my daughter Olivia and I traveled to Brooklyn, New York, for a wedding. After checking in at the hotel and inquiring about the restaurant there, the bell captain took us aside and suggested that we walk a couple of blocks to a place called Junior’s, which he said was famous for the best cheesecake in New York.

(As far as we're concerned, cobblers, tarts, cheesecake — anything served in a dish with a crust — is a "pie." And my favorite food expert, fellow University of Georgia grad Alton Brown, assures us cheesecake is a pie — "a custard pie, to be exact.")

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Olivia King, writer Bill King’s daughter, gets ready to enjoy a slice of Junior’s celebrated cheesecake at the restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. CONTRIBUTED BY BILL KING

Olivia King, writer Bill King’s daughter, gets ready to enjoy a slice of Junior’s celebrated cheesecake at the restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. CONTRIBUTED BY BILL KING
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Olivia King, writer Bill King’s daughter, gets ready to enjoy a slice of Junior’s celebrated cheesecake at the restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. CONTRIBUTED BY BILL KING

Actually, Junior's advertises its star offering as "the world's most fabulous cheesecake," and I wouldn't argue. Their "Famous No. 1 Original Cheesecake" certainly was one of the best we'd ever tasted, with Olivia unable to choose a winner between it and the white-chocolate cheesecake on an Oreo crust served at the Last Resort Grill in my hometown of Athens.

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The Bonzo Slice at Murphy’s, in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood, includes fudge brownie, cheesecake and dark chocolate mousse. CONTRIBUTED BY MURPHY’S

The Bonzo Slice at Murphy’s, in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood, includes fudge brownie, cheesecake and dark chocolate mousse. CONTRIBUTED BY MURPHY’S
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The Bonzo Slice at Murphy’s, in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood, includes fudge brownie, cheesecake and dark chocolate mousse. CONTRIBUTED BY MURPHY’S

Cheesecake also figures into Olivia’s other favorite, the Bonzo Slice (with fudge brownie, cheesecake and dark chocolate mousse) served at Murphy’s in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland area.

As for other restaurant offerings, we’re also partial to the chocolate ice box pie (with candied orange) served at Pea Ridge in greater Decatur.

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The chocolate icebox pie at Pea Ridge in greater Decatur is served with candied orange, and is a favorite of the King family. CONTRIBUTED BY PEA RIDGE

The chocolate icebox pie at Pea Ridge in greater Decatur is served with candied orange, and is a favorite of the King family. CONTRIBUTED BY PEA RIDGE
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The chocolate icebox pie at Pea Ridge in greater Decatur is served with candied orange, and is a favorite of the King family. CONTRIBUTED BY PEA RIDGE

It seems there always are new pie horizons to explore. Recently, my niece Jennifer mentioned liking the classic Southern buttermilk pie, which I'd somehow never tried. So, we ordered some mini buttermilk pies from Biti Pies in Amarillo, Texas, which charmingly came with a personalized note from someone named Skeeter.

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Buttermilk pie is a Southern favorite that writer Bill King and his family somehow had missed until recently. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

Buttermilk pie is a Southern favorite that writer Bill King and his family somehow had missed until recently. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING
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Buttermilk pie is a Southern favorite that writer Bill King and his family somehow had missed until recently. CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING

It reminded me of chess pie (as Jennifer had said), and my daughter said the creamy filling also put her in mind of Krispy Kremes.

I guess we'll add it to our list of favorites. Like Red Barber, and my Dad, we laaak pie!

Bill King is a retired writer-editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He can be reached at junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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