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Holiday cooking - Lemon meringue pie and Christmas tacos

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WORLD Radio - Holiday cooking - Lemon meringue pie and Christmas tacos

Myrna Brown and Nick Eicher share their favorite holiday cooking traditions


Image courtesy of Nick Eicher

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, December 24th. Christmas Eve! Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The final installment in our series on holiday cooking traditions.

EICHER: Well, we sort of turn tradition upside down. We’re not so much for ham or turkey and dressing.

Tonight, it’s Christmas tacos. Our favorite thing.

Winter weather doesn’t keep me away from the grill. So today’s our day to share, Myrna.

BROWN: I’m interested in these Christmas tacos and I think you’re going to like what my family does for dessert. Lemon. Meringue.

But don’t spoil your appetite. Dinner first!

AUDIO: [turn signal sound + turn and accelerate]

We’re compressing an hour’s activities into, well, less than three minutes.

AUDIO: [Salvation Army bells]

So together we head to the grocery store and gather up all our ingredients, everything we need.

See, we’re just into our empty-nesters phase, so my wife and I needed a new hobby and we thought we’d turn dinner into a big production.

So for this recipe:

Some crunch, so: radishes. [beep]

Some tangy flavor, that’s: tomatoes. [beep]

For spicy sharpness and color: scallions. [beep]

Of course, some chicken. [beep]

Sweet peppers. Reds. [beep] Yellows. [beep]

Limes, important for the tacos.

The thinner the skin, the better the lime, that’s how I pick ’em.

[Apple Pay]

Pay and go.

[“Thank you very much”]

That’s right. I’m walking around with headphones and digital recorder and microphone. Yeah, that’s not weird, not at all.

All right, toss the stuff into the car, hop in—safety first.

[door shuts, beeps, seat belt]

Let’s roll.

Back at the ranch, it’s prep time.

There’s going to be lots of slicing and dicing and sizzling and tossing and flipping and you do have to economize where you can, so we use these little frozen cubes of garlic.

(“That is fancy”)

Recognize that voice, I’m guessing. That’s my daughter Kristen Flavin

(“Hey”)

…She and husband and baby are over here tonight—the tacos are a real draw.

She’ll work on the scallions, the green tops we’ll set aside for the Christmas-y garnish, the white bottoms go in the black bean mash, along with sour cream and lime, but first.

(“Oh, wow”) Yeah, I like gadgets. Cool little can opener.

I think the secret sauce for this dish is the tomato-and-radish salsa.

(“Zest the lime?”)

Yes, I can. That’ll go in the salsa—along with the red and white of the tomato and radish, you get the freshness of lime but also the beautiful green zest. We’ll make quick work of that.

But it’s time to light the grill.

While that’s heating up, we need to get the peppers softened.

Just toss those around and let ’em simmer.

I do the chicken in a heavy iron skillet, high heat, real high.

Four minutes a side.

We’ll let that rest, dice it up, mix it with the chile paste.

So now you have all the elements: flour tortillas, the bean mash, the chicken, the peppers, the salsa, cotija cheese, some salt and pepper, and the green garnish—delicious and decorated for Christmas.

(“Thank you in Christ’s name”)

Dig in, gang!

I took a picture, so visit the website and have a look. WNG.org.

Image courtesy of Myrna Brown

MYRNA BROWN: My husband Stanley grew up in the 70’s. Back then, Sundays after church in Tennessee were meant for sharing laughs and recipes.

DARLENE: We hear you now...

Today members of the Brown clan are scattered all over the Southeast. But that’s nothing a good Zoom connection and the promise of homemade Lemon Meringue pie can’t overcome.

DARLENE: ...but when she first made it, she always called it Lemon Ice Box Pie.

That’s Stanley’s sister, Darlene. She was 8 years old when their mother, Bertha Mae Brown, began teaching her how to make the classic dessert.

DARLENE: It was in her head. She didn’t have it written down.

And now, that beloved family recipe lives on in Darlene, still wearing her Sunday best and gathering ingredients for her Lemon Meringue Zoom tutorial. Darlene is excited to share the family treasure with her two daughters, DeAndrea and Christy. Both live in Tennessee, about 30 minutes away from their mother. The family matriarch is also pleasantly surprised her three grandsons, Reinhold, KJ and Conley are within earshot. To round out the class, Stanley and I are ready in Alabama, along with our daughter Kelsey, listening and watching from her Georgia apartment.

AUDIO: [FOOD PROCESSOR]

The afternoon begins with a chorus of food processors, transforming Vanilla Wafer cookies into pie crusts with just one touch. Darlene reminds us it wasn’t always this simple.

DARLENE: Remember, I was crushing these cookies by hand. (Stanley) You were her food processor. Oh yeah! I was her food processor because doing it by hand was almost like shelling peas. Oh Wow!

After drizzling a little butter over the cookie crust, we all reach for our lemons, about three of them. But Darlene picks up an antique-looking glass saucer instead. It has a tiny handle on the side and an egg-shaped hump in the center.

DARLENE: Everybody, I want y'all to see this. Everybody looking? This juicer was my mother’s juicer. Oh!! ….

As we slice, squeeze and strain using our own juicers, the fresh aroma of citrus is deliriously overwhelming—maybe a bit too much for Christy.

CHRISTY TO DARLENE: Can we buy the lemon juice instead of doing all of this? Well, I guess if you’re making it your own. But if you’re following my mother’s recipe, you won’t be buying lemon juice. It’s just so many steps!

Our juicing produces about ⅔ of a cup of fresh lemon juice for the pie filling. But before Christy can rest her fatigued lemon- squeezing arms, it’s time to start cracking eggs ... and jokes.

CHRISTY: The recipe just keeps getting more and more work for us to do. We hand squeezed lemons, now we’ve got to separate some eggs.

STANLEY: You need to go out to the backyard and get you some fresh eggs from the hen house… (giggling)

The egg whites, when beaten with a little sugar, produce the pie’s fluffy, creamy and sweet meringue. Then, we take the egg yokes and combine them with the lemon juice and the condensed milk.

DARLENE: My mom would say this milk costs too much money… we’re going to get a spoon and get as much of it out as we can.

The melodic sounds of spoons scraping the cans of milk sends Christy over the edge.

CHRISTY: Ok, can I just say something as a younger mom? So we’ve used a fork, now we’ve got to use a spoon to get the condensed milk. All I’m seeing is dishes, upon dishes, upon dishes. Do you feel me? Look at the ladies, everybody is shaking their heads yes and laughing.

Even with the moments of comic relief, disguised as despair, we all get our pies in our 350 degree ovens. And as we wait for the meringue to brown, we get an even sweeter treat, a few last words from Bertha Mae’s granddaughters.

DEANDREA: Reinhold says that the meringue looks like clouds

KELSEY: Last year I had reached out to my dad just like wanting to know more about his childhood and his experiences growing up and then learning more about my grandmother that I never met. I don’t really like lemon meringue, but I like knowing how to make it for my dad in the event that he ever asks me to make it for him.

AUDIO: Good job, good job! Kelsey bring yours over here again? Alright.. Oh yeah.. I see, I see the brown... Nice, Nice…


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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