Menuism Dining Blog
Dining education for foodies

Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr

Happy National Pie Month! That’s right. February is, in the world of food, the month dedicated to the celebration of all things pie. I, for one, am a huge fan of pie. In honor of this momentous holiday, and as I watch pie make its steady rise up through the ranks of “hip” foods, I’d like to reflect on one of the South’s most wonderful types of pie: the chess pie.

Name That Chess Pie!

My grandmother’s holiday table always featured the same pie. Rich and smooth, her chocolate chess pie was the only pie that ever made me say, “I’ll just have a sliver,” topped with whipped cream, of course. A chess pie is, in its most basic form, a single-crust pie with a custard-like filling of eggs, sugar, butter and a bit of flour. To this base, one may add additional flavorings—from lemon and buttercream to chocolate. Add a dash of vinegar and you have the famed vinegar pie. The pecan pie, that rich and All-American Thanksgiving staple, is also a chess pie derivative. Baltimore even has its own chess pie—called the Baltimore Bomb—filled with the notorious Berger cookies (a local specialty) and whipped up by Dangerously Delicious Pies.

The Tasty History of Chess Pie

Like many traditional Southern foods, chess pie can trace its roots back to England. Eventually it became popular in both New England and the Southern colonies. Since then, the chess pie has evolved into a Southern tradition.

The name itself is surrounded by folklore. Some say chess pie comes from cheese pie, with the “cheese” lost along the way. Others claim that the name comes from the pie chest in which the pie was kept. The last, and the most common story that you’ll see in cook books and around the Web, is that when asked what was cooking, a Southern woman replied, “It’s jes’ pie.” But, like the many tall tales of how the Tar Heels got their name, it all depends on who you ask. As for me, I’ll take chess pie simply for what it is: delicious.

Editor’s Note: Can’t stop drooling over that lovely chocolate chess pie? You’re in luck. Take a gander at Elena’s family recipe here.

Elena Rosemond-Hoerr is a photographer and writer based out of Baltimore. Born and raised in North Carolina, Elena writes about Southern food culture, blending stories and recipes to bring a piece of the South to everyone. You can find her delicious recipes on her blog, Biscuits and Such, and follow her food musings on Twitter @biscuitsandsuch.

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