The Jew And The Carrot

My Grandmother's Luscious Lemon Pie

By Sari Kamin

  • Print
  • Share Share

At the end of a winding road through a cul-de-sac in Columbus, Ohio, lived my maternal grandparents, Lillian and Marty. They were always there when we pulled up, smiling through the screened door.

My grandmother was always cooking. I don’t think I ever saw her without her apron on. I remember her mostly from behind; skinny legs protruding from sweat pants, stirring something delicious smelling in an enormous metal pot. They had raised my mother on gefilte fish, chicken paprikash, and boiled cow tongue; recipes passed down from the generations that came before them. Though she was born and raised in Columbus, she had a knack for cooking traditional Eastern European food so authentic you’d think you were dining in the shtetl.


The home she lived in with my grandfather, smelled perpetually of brisket and other stewing meats. Chopped liver was a fixture at the table; it sat in a glass bowl as casually as salt. Her meals began with chicken soup and culminated in mountains of homemade mandlebrot. I was resolute in my distaste of her plat du jours, like roasted chicken and slow cooked meats, but I held tight, pushing food around with a fork in case her famous lemon meringue pie might make an appearance. The truth was, I loved her foods but I didn’t like them. By 15, I was a hard fast vegetarian who preferred kale to kreplach. But I was so endeared by her commitment to her meals; she lived to please us and feeding us was the best way she knew how.

On Shabbat, she always served brisket. The chewy meat dripping in juices would sit untouched on my plate. I would pick at the mushy carrots, watching them drown in a sea of brown liquid. As much as I looked forward to seeing my grandparents, I dreaded those meals. On some level I understood that those foods symbolized something historical, something cultural. With each bite of meatloaf or kugel or kreplach, I was digesting a legacy my ancestors had left behind. It was my own DNA and sweat and tears that gone into the water that boiled on my grandmother’s stove, but I was somehow not genetically disposed to liking those foods.

Desserts were different. Pastry was my grandmother’s true talent, and my happy consumption of her classic Jewish treats was my path back to my culinary heritage. We would get up from the dining table and crowd around a smaller table where she already arranged the dessert course. There would be piles of rugelach, layers of mondelbrot and my favorite, lemon pie. My grandmother’s lemon pie is legendary in my own mind. Eating it was something of a tasting roulette; depending on the bite, the flavor would either be decadently sweet or bracingly sour. When it was sour, it tasted of real lemons. The acid in my mouth would water and my lips puckered. But then, as if you were being rewarded for the previous bite, would come a creamy layer of lemon curd. Heaven.

When I think of my grandparents now, I remember the pussy willows that were always in a vase by the door. I remember the pond my grandfather and I would walk to and look for frogs. I remember the wallpaper that was flecked with gold paint in the upstairs bathroom, but mostly I remember that pie. Sometimes sour, sometimes sweet.

Luscious Lemon Pie

Filling and Crust
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons cold water
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
3 eggs — separated
2 tablespoons milk
1 8-inch baked pie shell

Fluffy meringue: 1/2 cup sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup water 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar 2 egg whites (reserved from above) beaten until stiff 1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To Make Lemon Filling: In a heavy bottom saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Turn on heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in butter.

Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Place the saucepan back on the burner and slowly bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.

To Make Meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue gently over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.

Place in heated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: shabbat recipes, shabbat meals

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different.
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.