Despite my fast talking early childhood training that the South lost the war, and thus Southerners were lesser people, I'd like to posit that when it comes to dessert our friends below the Mason-Dixon line may have my Yankee fork licked.
Tonight my friend Julie, a native Texan, made two buttermilk pies. I never understood the physics behind any milk-based pie. Could it really work? And frankly, was buttermilk interesting enough to merit a pie of its own?
I watched Julie mix eggs and sugar, butter and buttermilk, vanilla and flour (to help firm it up) and a dash of salt into a goopy mess. There were teeny bits of butter left swimming around like tadpoles in a murky creek; I was skeptical. It did not look elegant, emulsified, or intricate. This was her first attempt and Julie was nervous, but she poured the goop into the crust and carefully slid the sloshing pies into the oven, no spills. And we waited.
I'll start with the delicate scent that wafted across the room. If there is a heaven and I actually get in, it might smell like this: the sweetest dairy, with hints of vanilla and a promise of compassion in the buttery, browning crust. Wow. When Julie finally maneuvered them out of the oven, they were speckled brown across the top and had puffed up like a bullfrog about to sing. She let them cool a bit (and the puff deflated), and then it was pie-time. My slice was pale yellow with a custardy, rippled texture. It was achingly sweet but tempered by the little tang from the buttermilk. The brown speckles across the top were caramlized bits that hinted at creme brulee and toasted marshmallows-- it was fantastic.
I take back all my trash talk about the South. And I'm willing to eat other fabulous items to prove just how foolish I was :)