Mama Chapman’s Pies, The Bad & Good

Just about everyone has a story about their grandmother’s pies. Well, I’m no different and story-wise, I’m lucky enough to have two.

My grandmother Chapman was known to adults as Mrs. Annie and to us kids as Mama. She lived in Greenville, SC and during several summers I’d got a chance to stay with her for a week. She was a stereotypical looking grandma of the Granny Clampett style. She was very loving and kind with only two faults. One was her fervent fundamental Pentecostal religion and the other her firmly held, but mistaken, belief that my favorite pie was her version of lemon meringue.

I don’t know where the impression came from but on every visit, she’d make me my very own and very large lemon meringue pie. To me, her pie had the consistency of pure butter with a little lemon juice and sugar mixed in. It simply slid down your throat and a week or two after returning home your digestive system still felt well lubricated.

While I was never able to tell her the truth the salvation was that sometime during my stay she would break out her big cast iron skillet and fry up some wonderful Southern fried apricot pies. They were to behold and when I think of Mama Chapman that’s the memory I hope comes to mind first.

I don’t remember fried pies ever being common here in Ohio until the Mennonites and Amish began to move in and hold bake sales. Problem is, they just aren’t very good. The dough is not as flaky as Mama Chapman’s and the filling has almost zero fruit. They’re heavy on some sort of colored gel with a couple of blackberries chopped up and tossed in. Matter of fact; that’s what I find true about all their pies.

The last good fried pie I had was back in the late 1990s when Mike McCoy and I were coming home from a fishing trip to South Carolina. We came across the mountain at Fancy Gap or Cana, VA and stopped at a road stop attraction called Mountain Man’s. We made lunch of a pulled pork sandwich and for dessert ordered up a freshly fried apple pie with two scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream. At that moment, on top of that mountain, even an atheist could see Heaven.

Unfortunately, Fancy Gap has been bypassed by an Interstate and the last time I drove through Mountain Man had shut his doors. Not all progress is progress.

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