Pinch Pie in Time for Summer

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
how to make Pinch Pie

Early editions of Joy of Cooking included something called a “Pinch Pie,” a straightforward baked meringue shell filled with ice cream and/or whipped cream and sweetened fresh summer fruit. Sure, it’s got some age on it, and it’s a delicious and unexpected summer dessert recipe as Tennessee strawberries peak and peaches are on the way.

We were introduced to Pinch Pie by the late Bernie Arnold, Nashville’s prolific food writer and editor, who chronicled Nashville foodways long before tattoos invaded the kitchen. Sadly, she passed away at 88 this past February. In four decades—from the mid-1960s through the early 1990s, first writing for the Tennessean and then as the longtime food editor of the Nashville Banner, Bernie introduced Nashvillians to scores of talented home cooks, restaurants, food trends, new ingredients, and seasonal recipes.

Bernie came to Nashville in the 1940s to study English and theater at Lipscomb University (where she met her future husband, Bud). Food writing was not among Bernie’s plans. She said, “I had four hungry kids and a husband who liked to invite people over for dinner. I didn’t have any choice but learn how to cook.” And attending extension service home demonstrations was a great excuse to get out of the house once in a while.

Bernie really took to cooking and she won second place in a state baking contest. Shortly afterward an editor at the Tennessean and former Lipscomb classmate contacted her. They needed a food writer. Bernie wrote from her Green Hills home on a typewriter at the kitchen table with a view of the garden and the wall phone over her shoulder. Many a Sunday evening she’d be on deadline, driving like mad to deliver her copy for the week.

Known for her charm and playful sharp wit, Bernie once shared with us the unlikely beginning of her career as the food editor of the Banner. In 1974, while the family watched the local Sunday evening news, a report aired about a neighborhood gas leak and explosion. The Banner food editor at the time was the unfortunate victim. Bernie recalled her son looking up at her and saying, “I guess they’ll be calling you on Monday, Mom.” And they did. She stayed with the Nashville Banner until retirement in 1992.

No doubt Bernie would agree that Middle Tennesseans have long been guided by the seasons and the agricultural bounty of this area. Pinch Pie was one of her favorite summer desserts. Here’s our adaptation of the recipe.

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