Key Lime Pie

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During my last trip back home, I was talking about something with my mom (I don’t recall exactly what), when she said to me “I remember that during your first year in America, you kept telling me that America isn’t that great and that you’d definitely prefer to return back home.”

I do remember saying something to that extent when I returned back home for my first Christmas break in college. I had been in the U.S. for four months. They were great months, full of experiences and discoveries, new and tenuous friendships, and an unfamiliar sense of freedom. But everything was still an “other” to me. Or, more likely, I was an “other” to them. I didn’t quite belong the way I still belonged back home.

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I probably said the same thing to her during my next visit back home, over my first summer break. But I was being, by then, only partly honest with her. I had been bitten by the bug, the American bug, the one of opportunity and might, of huge malls and amusement parks, of college parties and courses on post-modernism, of baby back ribs and key lime pie. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her. So, I probably repeated those same words, not wanting to hurt her feelings.

It wasn’t until the following summer, when “they” became “we,” that she knew she had lost me. I no longer referred to Americans in the third person. It wasn’t they who liked to hang out in malls all day, it was weThey didn’t debate the limits of free speech, we did. It took until my third summer break for my mom to directly confront me with it. “You’re never coming back, are you?” she asked me one day. “No,” I said guiltily “I’m not.” I had crossed over. The key lime pie had won.DSC03690Key Lime Pie – Adapted from Epicurious

Note: I know everyone says that no dessert is more American than apple pie, but I’m here to tell you that they are wrong. Key lime pie is the national dessert of this country. Or at least it should be. You’ll find a lot of recipes for it online, with all kinds of complex steps and weird variations. Ignore them. Key lime pie should be simple. It must use sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. It must be made with freshly squeezed key lime or regular lime juice, never from a bottle. The crust must be made with graham crackers. And your should never, ever serve it with whipped cream on top.

Ingredients:

For crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling:
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
8 large egg yolks
1¼ cup key lime juice (or regular lime juice)

Directions:

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9.5-inch glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

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