“The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” ~ Walt Whitman
Discussing the light of letters is all well and good, but you can’t eat it. Walt Whitman’s insights into simplicity are at their most meaningful for me when applied to cooking. For many chow hounds like myself, the Holy Grail of preparing food is when simplicity comes wrapped up in deliciousness. And, as far as deserts go, a tasty example is Cherry Cheese Pie. The recipe was featured in the 1970’s on cans of Borden’s Eagle Brand Condensed Milk. Some sort of magical alchemy happens when you marry the tartness of a basic cream cheese refrigerator pie with a topping of sweet canned cherries. A word on cherries in a can – crowning this pie in magnificent jewel tone red is the only useful purpose they serve. I would never eat them in any other context.
This pie marked many special occasions during my childhood – birthdays, holidays, and the like. My Mother made it recently when I visited she and my Father in North Carolina. The photograph was taken on my parents’ rear deck. The biggest challenges were the changing lighting conditions and the heat. Clouds were moving overhead quickly and as I waited for more diffuse lighting, the front of the pie slice began to droop and melt. Photoshop to the rescue! I also had to chase my Pug Caesar from the set — he tried to gobble the pie slice off the bench when my back was turned.
Here is the complete Eagle Brand recipe with some notes from my Mother:
1 9″ Graham cracker crumb crust
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened at room temperature; do not use low fat cream cheese).
1 can Borden’s Eagle Brand Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling (for topping)
Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add condensed milk and stir until well blended. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Put into crust. Chill at least 6 hours or overnight. Top individual pie slices with canned cherries.