by MELISSA GORDON
Forty-one years ago, Chicago was in the middle of one of its snowiest winters in history. Less than two weeks after a 10-inch New Year’s Eve dump, a blizzard swept through, leaving nearly two more feet of snow. Temps reached 19 below zero, and snow continued to fall. By the time Old Man Winter left town that year, total snowfall exceeded 88 inches, well over double Chicago’s annual average of 33 inches.
Amidst this snowy, bitter cold winter a young man shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled some more. His wife was expecting their second child, and he didn’t want to get snowed in when the time came. Fortunately, the couple’s neighbor saw what was going on, and began plowing their driveway twice a day for them, lightening the man’s shoveling load and easing their anxiety. On February 24, 1979, a healthy baby girl was born.
What does this have to do with food? My parents moved shortly after I was born so I never knew the man who plowed their drive for them, thereby assisting my arrival into the world, just like I’ll never know the countless people who work hard every day to get food on my plate. But it’s amazing and humbling and wonderful to take a moment every now and then to think about all the people you’ll never know who have helped you in some way. Gratitude bursts from my heart! Cheers, unknown neighbor!
If I Knew My Old Neighbor, I’d Bake Him this Lemon Cream Pie
• 9 rectangular graham crackers
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 5 tablespoons butter, melted
• 2 (14-ounce each) cans sweetened condensed milk
• 3 large egg yolks
• 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 5-6 lemons)
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange one of the racks is in the middle of the oven.
Break the graham crackers into pieces and add them to a blender, food processor or Ziploc bag and crush (or roll the bag with a rolling pin) until the crackers are finely ground. Mix in the sugar and butter (if using a Ziploc bag, transfer the cracker crumbs to a bowl before adding these ingredients).
Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a nine-inch pie plate. Bake the crust for 12-14 minutes, until it is just beginning to brown. Cool the crust completely on a wire rack.
Once the crust is cool, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Measure out three tablespoons of the sweetened condensed milk and set aside in a small container for later use. Whisk the remaining condensed milk with the egg yolks until smooth. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake the pie until the edges are just set but the center still jiggles when the pie plate is lightly moved, about 15 minutes.
Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack and then cover and refrigerate until well-chilled and set, about three hours or up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, using an electric stand mixer or handheld mixer, whip the cream, reserved condensed milk and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped topping over the pie. At this point, the pie could be chilled for up to an hour (any longer and the whipped cream topping can cause the pie to “weep” and get liquidy). Cut into slices and serve.