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Raspberry Buttermilk Pie Recipe and the Perils of Progress

Not too long ago, I had a discussion with some friends about whether or not Florida is part of “The Deep South”.  A few of us said yes, of course.  After all, it is the southernmost state in the country, so it must be.  But, one enlightened soul disagreed.  She said that while perhaps at one time Florida may have been considered part of the deep South, it wasn’t anymore, because a majority of the people living here are from somewhere else.  She had a point.  The heavy migration of Florida residents from the northern states, Cuba, Latin America and Europe have significantly transformed the state’s population landscape.   Not only do retirees move here in droves, but in the past twenty years we have also seen a huge influx of younger families from all over the world settling here.   South Florida is an urban cultural melting pot,  and most of the state’s other coastal areas have become cosmopolitan mini-meccas.  I’ve seen this happen in my own town.

(Downtown Main Street, circa 1950’s)

When my family first came to Sarasota in 1969, it was very, very different than it is today.  In fact, it is almost unrecognizable now.   Back then, people moved here because they wanted to live in a charming, artsy, small southern town with miles of pure white sandy beaches and an endless expanse of glassy, turquoise waters.  We came here to live a kinder, gentler life.  We assimilated into the existing community.  Somewhere along the way, things got reversed.  People with lots of money began to move here with grand ideas of taking over and turning the town into what they left behind.  Our city commissioners got stars in their eyes and let things slide by.   Some of the changes have been positive.  Many have not.

I’ve seen gorgeous old buildings literally vanish in the middle of the night.  Cherished pieces of our community’s history were reduced to rubble, and ultimately replaced with office buildings or condos –  all in the name of progress.    I know that nothing lasts forever, but it’s sad that our local officials haven’t done more to preserve the past for future generations.     Don’t get me wrong.  This is still a beautiful place, and the quality of life is great.  It just isn’t the same place anymore.

(The beautiful, art deco Lido Casino demolished in 1969 for no good reason at all, and replaced with an ugly, nondescript looking pavilion)

When I was a kid, you could drive along the beach roads and actually see the beach.  These days, the condos and beach houses are three and four deep.  Those million dollar views actually do cost millions now, unless you’re lucky enough to find a parking space at one of the public beaches, which is no small feat!

Several months ago, someone started a Facebook group for people who grew up in Sarasota.  It started out as a place for those of us that grew up here in the seventies and eighties to reconnect and reminisce.  It has since evolved into an historic treasure trove of old photos, stories and other recollections by many that were here long before I was.  I’ve had the best time learning about the “old days”, and wishing that I’d been around then, because so many of the old landmarks and plain old cool places have been demolished.  They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot!

So, you might be wondering what does all this rambling have to do with Raspberry Buttermilk Pie.  Absolutely nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Except that thinking about that conversation kind of got me on a roll.  And also, that my wise friend happens to be from the Deep South, and this is her family recipe.    Except for the raspberries.  I came up with that all by myself.

Buttermilk pie is a traditional southern favorite. It is a custard based pie made with eggs, butter, sugar and of course, buttermilk. It’s really quite simple to make, and the payoff is big. This is one silky smooth, creamy and incredibly delicious dessert. I can see why it’s so popular!

To prepare the pie, all you do is mix up all of the filling ingredients and pour them into an unbaked pie shell.  You can make your own crust from scratch, like Lily always does, or use a store bought crust, like I sometimes do.  Honestly, it is better with a homemade crust, but it’s also plenty wonderful without – so don’t let that deter you from trying this recipe.

I was betting that the pie’s rich custard filling would make a perfect backdrop for some fresh summer fruits, so I also added some raspberries to it.  I’m guessing that just about any kind of berry or other firm fruit, like peaches or apples would work  just as well.  Oooh!  A peaches and cream pie!  How great does that sound?

Whether you’re from the Deep South, the “Faux” South or no South at all, I guarantee that you will love this pie.  It’s rich, cool and sweet, without being cloyingly so.  The raspberries add a nice pop of fruity freshness and texture as well.

Those cool, retro photos of my hometown came from Sarasota History Alive [1], a great web site I found maintained by Larry Kelleher, a native Sarasotan and fellow Facebooker.  There is a ton of interesting information about the “old days” there, as well as scads of vintage photos and videos.  It’s obvious that a lot of pride and love went into the site, so if you have a little time to kill, I hope you’ll check it out.