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“He began to eat; he continued to eat; in fact, he did well. So did his two comrades. Not that the melancholy of these three was dispersed — far from it! With ineffaceable gloom they ate chicken, both white meat and dark, drumsticks, wishbones, and lives; they ate corn-on-the-cob, many ears, and fried potatoes and green peas and string-beans; they ate peach preserves and apricot preserves and preserved pears; they ate biscuits with grape jelly and biscuits with crabapple jelly; they ate apple sauce and apple butter and apple pie. They ate pickles, both cucumber pickles and pickles made of watermelon rind; they ate pickled tomatoes, pickles peppers, also pickled onions. They ate lemon pie.” 

– Booth Tarkington, “Seventeen: A Tale of Youth and Summer Time and the Baxter Family” This one, my friends, was almost a kitchen disaster. But a bit of recipe altering and a loose idea of “instructions” — sorry, Booth! — led me to a creation altogether delicious, albeit altered.

I thought we’d leave September with another lemon treat from another Indiana author: Booth Tarkington. Tarkington was born and buried in Indianapolis, with time spent in Maine and in school at Princeton in between. For this recipe, I returned to the Sesqui Samplings cookbook (read more here about the collection), which notes,

“The last quarter of the century and into the 1900s was the Golden Age of Indiana Literatures. Some of the authors and many of their works did not sustain permanent fame beyond the borders of their home state. At the time, however, they were nationally read and nationally known. And Indianapolis knew may of them on a first name basis: Pulitzer prize-winning Booth Tarkington; novelist and sometime essayist Meredith Nicholson; and beloved Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley.” The source of this recipe is unknown to me — the only reference to Booth and his lemon pie is in his own work, Seventeen. But Sesqui Samplings is in part compiled by surviving family members, and Tarkington has more than a few of those left in Indianapolis. This (plus the end of citrus baking season, if that’s such a thing) is good enough for me!

Recipe: 

Booth's recipe

Historical Variation:

"Lump of butter, size of egg"

After separating my whites and yolks, per the recipe, I cracked one more egg white to add to my meringue. And that egg was rotten. Of course, it was also my very last egg. So I tossed the whites and instead made a quick, lemony whipped cream, to which I added the powdered sugar before plopping it on top of the finished pie, which was delicate and flakey. Kitchen disaster averted!

Historic recipes have much less precise measurements — consider, in this case, “lump of butter,  size of egg.” I imagined the eggs that Booth would have had, not factory-farmed, caged, Jumbo eggs. Per my “historic visualizing,” I ended up using a 1/4 cup of butter.

This was an almost perfect recipe, with very little variation needed. Without my rotten egg, of course, which necessitated a change in plans. But I’ve made many a meringue with almost exactly these proportions and feel confident in Tarkington’s recipe.

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