Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-04-28
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
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Legendary Recipes from Virginia's Queen of Pie Mrs. Rowe, known fondly as "the Pie Lady" by legions of loyal customers, was the quintessential purveyor of all-American comfort food. Today her family carries on this legacy at the original Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery in Staunton, Virginia, as well as at the new country buffet. The restaurant's bustling take-out counter sells a staggering 100 handmade pies every day! With the pies being snapped up that quickly, it's no wonder that Mrs. Rowe urged her customers to order dessert first. InMrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies, recipes for Southern classics likeKey Lime PieandPecan Fudge Piesit alongside restaurant favorites likeFrench Apple PieandOriginal Coconut Cream Pie. Additional recipes gathered from family notebooks and recipe boxes include regional gems likeShoofly PieandLemon Chess Pie. With berries and custards and fudge--oh my!--plus a variety of delectable crusts and toppings, this mouthwatering collection offers a little slice of Southern hospitality that will satisfy every type of sweet tooth--and convince even city slickers to take the time to smell theFresh Peach Pie.

Author Biography

Mollie Cox Bryan is an award-winning writer, essayist, and columnist. She has written for GRIT magazine, Relish magazine, Taste of the South magazine, NPR's "Kitchen Window," the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Sun-Times, and parenting magazines across the country. The author of Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook, she is also a family life columnist for the Daily News Leader in Staunton, Virginia. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Waynesboro, Virginia.

What was your first job?
I worked at a little country restaurant/truck stop called "Mary's" in Raccoon Township. I scooped ice cream and made donuts, which I loved because I could make the icing any color I wanted and decorate it creatively. Eventually I was fired for my inefficiency–I used too many nuts and sprinkles.
Do you eat your vegetables?
I am a vegetarian and can't think of a vegetable that I don't like.

Who would you cast as yourself in a movie of your life?
Myself–Kerri Russell
Mrs. Rowe–Maggie Gyllenhaal

Are you "six degrees of separation" away from anyone famous?
My grandfather's cousin was Jean Harlow.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I've always been a writer, but I have had some other ambitions, like dancing and acting. One time, when I was 14 or 15, the circus came to town and I decided I wanted to join as an acrobat. I even got the application, and filled it out, but because I was under age, I needed my mother's legal consent. Of course, that did not happen.


When I bite into a slice of coconut cream pie at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, in Staunton, Virginia, I know where I am. One taste tells me with extraordinary smooth and rich flavors that take me home--or what I'd like home to be--a place of warmth and comfort where mothers and grandmothers fawn over me with delicious temptations from the oven. "One more slice, honey. Everything will be all right." Another bite and I absolutely believe it. That is the magic and glory of pie.
Pie takes you home even when you're sitting at a table in a restaurant that seats 250 and serves half a million meals a year. Even the waitresses buzzing around, the countless murmuring conversations, and the clanking of dishes and silverware don't detract from the ultimate pie experience. No food conjures images of home and hearth the way that pie does.
Pie is center stage when you walk into Mrs. Rowe's Staunton eatery, one of the most successful family-owned restaurants in the state of Virginia, a family business since 1947. Glass cases brim with puffy meringues, some dotted generously with chocolate chips, some just nicely browned, enticing eaters to wonder what delicious secrets lie beneath the sugary mounds. Often passing glances turn into stares as the hostess attempts to get people seated.
"What kind of pie is that?" one man wants to know. "Lemon meringue? Coconut Cream? Chocolate? Butterscotch?"
Answer: all of the above.
Pie. Some are born to make it; it's in the flick of their wrist, the intuitive touch in the tips of their fingers, and exacting instincts about how it should taste, look, smell, and even feel in the mouth.
Mildred Rowe was one of those people, blessed with sensitive, practiced hands and an extraordinary palate. She gladly filled the role of "Pie Lady," a nickname her customers gave her. Her green eyes sparkled, her hands went to her hips, and a smile spread across her face. "If you want some of that blackberry pie, you'd better order it now." Knowing that the specialty, seasonal pies would go fast, Mildred advised her customers to order dessert before anything else--just one of her personal touches that made customers feel special. Of course, that it was good for business did not escape her.
Mildred's extraordinary pies became legendary. Even as she earned the title of the undisputed "Queen of Pie" in the Shenandoah Valley, and maybe the state, she never took her role for granted. She was always seeking better recipes, better ingredients, and better financial success, balancing good food, reasonable prices, and staff management with the need to earn a living.
Now that Mildred is gone, her family and staff carry on. They strive for balance and efficiency in a constantly fluctuating business environment. Now the balancing act includes holding true to Mildred's vision while meeting the growing demands of over half a million increasingly younger customers each year.
Pie is one of the mainstays that has allowed the business to expand. Mildred once served slices of coconut cream, strawberry rhubarb, or chocolate pie to restaurant customers exclusively. Then, seeing a business opportunity, she began to sell whole pies to other local restaurants. At least four restaurants now buy whole pies from Mrs. Rowe's. Whole pies are also sold to locals on a regular basis, especially around the winter holidays.
The homemade pies Mildred made famous remain the most popular dessert at her restaurant. Throughout much of the country, pie is passé, having given way to fancy desserts like mousse, crème brûlée, and the inevitable biscotti lining coffee shop counters. But at Mrs. Rowe's, in the heart of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, pie has never gone out of fashion.
Maybe it's the way the valley is wedged between the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge, but change takes its time here, where

Excerpted from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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