Monday, May 18, 2009


When I was a little girl in the 1950’s we would make the trip to the small community of Peel, Arkansas on Memorial Day weekend to attend church service, decorate the graves and partake in the noon meal my parents referred to as “Dinner on the Ground.“ There would be service in the old Peel church, no air conditioning and HARD benches. The sermon was long, but finally and at long last the preacher closed his Bible and the benediction was said.

Many church ladies specialized in a dish. Dinner on the ground wasn't complete without Aunt Joy’s chocolate pie or her chicken and dumplings. Grandma always took an assortment of pies, including my favorite Rhubarb and Gooseberry. Food was placed on long tables covered with a kaleidoscope of tablecloths. Fried chicken, spaghetti, chicken and dressing, casseroles, stews, baked hams and roasts, vegetable casseroles, corn pudding, purple-hull or crowder peas, sliced tomatoes, green onions fresh out of the garden, sweet, dill and beet pickles, chow-chow, jello salads, macaroni and cheese and deviled eggs, corn bread and homemade rolls, banana pudding, lemon meringue pies, apple cakes, and peach cobblers, and lots of iced tea. With their plates groaning under the weight of the food, people found a spot in the shade and "dug in!" Sometimes families brought old quilts or blankets to sit on.

Tradition said everybody must eat until they are absolutely stuffed. A lot of teasing went on, such as "Are you coming back for seconds already?" and "Gluttony is a sin, brother, so I'll save you from sin by eating that last piece of pie for you." The song leader would accuse the preacher of breaking in line to get more food. "Now what kind of way is that for a preacher to act?" The preacher would reply, "Well, the Bible says 'Man shall not live by bread alone,' and so I aim to get me some of Sister Mamie’s chicken and dumplings." It did people a lot of good to be able to laugh, to open up.

The day was filled with visiting and reminiscing for the adults and the kids would run amuck playing tag and getting in trouble for being too rambunctious!

Rhubarb pie is my favorite pie on Earth. It’s that intense tartness balanced with just enough sweetness and a flaky crust that I adore. I love the beautiful ruby red vegetable and it’s one of the things I associate with Springtime!

Grandma Keeling's Rhubarb Pie
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 ¼ cup Crisco shortening
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 egg
Cut shortening into flour, add salt. Beat egg, vinegar and water. Add to flour mixture and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup cornstarch
1½ pounds rhubarb, small diced (about five cups)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roll out your dough into a large rectangle about 3/16th of an inch thick. Invert your pie plate on the dough and use the rest for strips.
Lay the the dough into the pie plate leaving about an inch of dough overhanging the edge. Then use a pastry wheel or knife to cut nine ¾-inch strips the length of the pie plate. When your dough is ready, combine the sugar, spices and cornstarch and stir to distribute the spices and cornstarch. In a large bowl, toss the sugar mixture with the rhubarb until it’s evenly coated. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the pie plate. Place five strips of dough horizontally at even intervals across the pie. Fold the first, third and fifth strips back to the edge and lay one strip of dough vertically across the horizontal strips. Fold the first, third and fifth horizontal strips back then fold the second and fourth strips back to the first vertical strip. Lay a second vertical strip an equal distance from the first one. Fold the second and fourth strips back. Repeat the process with the final lattice strips.
Place pie on a baking sheet and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hour or until the fruit is bubbling and hot and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Print Recipe


  1. I LOVE steeples! When our old, old church burnt about 5 yrs. ago to the ground, I was heart sick. That old steeple shown in all her glory above the entire town. Then, when the church was nearly 'restored', a workers welding caught the church on fire again ... this time the church was totally destroyed AND that breathtaking steeple was gone forever. It was like a death ... I shed a few tears.

    Now our church is rebuilt, but it is not the same graceful elegant awesome steeple that once beautified the Heavenly skies.

    Your pic is awesome. TY for sharing ...

    Rhubarb pie is one of our favorites that Mother & G'ma made all the time. We'd even freeze the rhubarb so that in the winter we'd have fresh rhubarb pie for the holidays. Yum!

    TTFN~ Marydon

  2. That sounds like a completely Saturay Evening Post or Currier and Ives memory - I was reading and just thought these are good things about living in America - church sermons, church picnics, a reason for Memorial day - How Wonderful!

    I love the picture of the church steeple with all the pretty blossoms.

  3. Our church has monthly pot lucks and I love it and love thinking up good recipes to share.

    from The Raggedy Girl

  4. I think I enjoyed the church meeting as much as you did. Lovely story, beautifully told. A piece of Americana.

  5. What a beautiful picture of the church!
    Pie looks good too. I have never had a rhubarb pie. I must try it!

  6. My dad's side of the family still has decoration day but for the past 15 years I have missed the family gathering. The whole family gathers at the family cemetery for the service and then on to the covered dish. The cemetery is on a mountain top in north central Tennessee near nothing and about as close to God on earth as one can get.

    It is so funny to hear someone else refer to Decoration Day. Not many people know or recognize it in the metro Atlanta area.

    P.S. Wish we could share a cup of coffee and some of that pie!!!

  7. Brings back memories of my childhood, for sure.

    BTW, that photo is pure poetry!

  8. Great post Joy! That pie looks yummy. I'm not a pie maker though. Never was. I can bake anything else though. Or used to. Some of my best memories when I was young was going to some country church. There was always something going on it seems. From picnics to hayrides. I had a lot of fun with the church groups during my growing up years.

  9. I LOVE rhubarb pie--and I'm a complete dolt when it comes to baking. I maybe get my courage up and try this ... I'll let you know if I do! But first I'd have to pick my family off the floor. They'd all faint if I conquered by baking fear.

  10. This is a trip down memory lane. We have said before we are sisters separated at birth!

    Every year on the first Sunday in May when I was growing up, we went way back in the "sticks" where my father's family homesteaded the land and settled with their families in the late 1700s.

    I have never eaten rhubarb pie -- but I am going to save your recipe and give it a try. I think rhubarb is something that is not as common here in the very Deep South as it is in other parts of the country.

    Thanks for the memory.


  11. what a beautiful post, visually and spiritually~


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