Hey everyone, how were your holidays?

I am willing to bet they were a bit weird, probably not at all the way they usually are, or the way you wanted. I missed my family, I missed the board games. I even missed the ritual of trying to get comfortable at night in the near-tropical heat of my parents’ house. We scaled back on decorations and dinner too – after all, it is just us three.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

But we didn’t skimp on the pie.

You may think that pie is a frivolous thing, and I suppose in many ways you would be correct. I mean, it’s pie. In a year of pandemic, wild elections, economic unbalance, and climate disaster, a person could be excused for thinking that talking about pie is ridiculous. It is.

But it’s also not.

This pie matters. My mom first tasted it back in the early 1950s when she and her college friends would stop in at Stanley’s Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri. It was love. She begged the owner for the recipe. Nothing doing.  When graduation came, she pleaded. She explained she was leaving, getting married and moving far away, and she swore to never tell a soul. Nope. Mom left Missouri, but she didn’t forget that pie.

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Then, one day, nearly 10 years later, there it was: Stanley’s Cream Cheese Pie, printed out in the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

My mom cut it out of the paper (how cute is that?) and despite not really being flush enough to afford the luxe ingredients, she bought them anyway and made the pie that night. It’s been a staple in our family ever since.

There were some memorable disasters: the time mom forgot to bake the pie and ladled it out like soup, the one that slid out of the crust, landing on the floor of a dinner party. Learning to make it is a right of passage, nearly a full-blown apprenticeship. One in-law has been known to proclaim this pie is why people marry into the family. Hmm.

Naturally, we tend to keep the “how to” to ourselves. This year, in the spirit of giving thanks, sharing and creating new traditions for the new year (2021 has to be better, right?) I am opening up the recipe file and letting you all in on the secret.

Take 1½ packages of cream cheese (don’t skimp, get the good stuff) and let it come to room temperature. Beat until it’s fluffy. Add in two eggs, one at a time. Then, slowly (I’m not kidding) add in ¾ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl more than once. Pour it into a graham cracker crust (homemade is best) and bake it at 350 degrees for as long as it needs to set and for the edges to turn golden brown.

While the pie cooks, whip together 1 cup sour cream, 3½ tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon lemon juice. When the pie is done, turn off the oven, gently spoon this concoction over the top and put the pie back in the cooling oven for 10 minutes. Let it cool, then refrigerate overnight.

This pie has been the mortar for many a family gathering. In this strange year, it helped us all feel the presence of those we are missing. I offer up this recipe in the hopes that it will offer something special to your holidays and lighten the darkness of these strange days. Bon Appetite.

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