The best chocolate pie I ever had

The best chocolate pie I ever had

I don’t remember the first time I sunk my fork into the tallest and best piece of chocolate cream pie Elby’s had to offer. I do remember watching my utensil slide deftly through the layers, those high, fluffy layers, picking up a piece of flaky crust to make the bite complete. The texture and flavor were beyond measure, and I’ve never had a better slice.

I’ll make no apologies for foodie memories. Sitting in the 1970s booths at Elby’s are as much a part of childhood as anything else. There weren’t as many fast food places around at that time, so sit-down restaurants or truck stops were where we ate. And the pie, there was always pie.

Living in Amish country for the entirety of my life means I was subjected to some of the best desserts and baked goods anywhere. Most Sunday mornings a box of cream sticks was brought out from wherever it had been hidden, and I’d dip it in the hot chocolate I would make from mom’s homemade mix.

The brown mug is what I made it in, always the brown mug. Even thinking about it brings the taste back to my tongue: the swirl of homemade cocoa dripping from the creamy center of our beloved cream sticks.

I’ve traveled to places that don’t have cream sticks, even in states bordering Ohio, and they look at you funny when I ask if there’s cream in the center. Long Johns, as they’re called, are nothing if not a long rectangle of dough with frosting. I reject them emphatically, no ill will toward those who love them. You can’t find better pastries than right here at home.

Pies, cookies, pastries and cakes, the richer the better. I was and still am a pretty good baker. I took over making the chocolate chip cookies when I was young, making them just as perfect as mom did, as well as chocolate cakes, pies and eventually the beloved favorite family dessert: One Egg Cake.

Mom paired a basic cake from the Betty Crocker Cookbook and made a luscious, hot cooked chocolate sauce to pour over individual pieces. It’s divine, hard to describe and the best thing you’ll ever eat. I made it last weekend to watch the Browns game.

In thinking about certain desserts that take me back, there are several that come to mind: chocolate layered torte that was always in abundance at church carry-ins as well as one made with vanilla or butterscotch pudding and ice cream, always topped with Ritz cracker crumbs.

Ho-ho cakes made from scratch is a lovely taste recall, and I sometimes make it — cooked center and all — just to remember. Chocolate Crazy cakes with brown butter frosting, Toll House Marble Squares (which I still make monthly) and green 7-UP Salad, the sight and smell of these wonders are a treasure.

We are a people driven by trends in food at times. I remember when Mexican food became popular. Many times some ingredients were not available in our area. If you look back further and research when Italian food became sought after, you see it was when waves of immigrants came to our shores and made it their home.

God bless pizza and pasta as well as tacos. Our local cooking heritage stems mostly from European countries. Also there were many Russian Mennonites I read of, and long-ago recipes were passed on so we could continue making them here.

I have a fat stack of local recipe books from long ago, and while some of the techniques are outdated due to technology, you can’t replace basic cooking methods.

My food memories are too many to count, so whenever I can, I make something from my past that helps me lean into the future. I take foods I treasure and combine them with new ways of doing things while incorporating the old. And if anyone can point me where I can get a slice of chocolate cream pie from Elby’s, I’ll be forever thankful.

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