Friday, August 28, 2015

Paleo Chocolate Pie Inspired by Kathryn Stockett's The Help

I've never really liked the color yellow. Unless it’s found in nature, I’ve always thought it an obscenely cheerful color of which I want nothing to do with. When I first came across The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I saw a bright yellow novel with cute little birds on the cover and immediately wrote it off as some chick-flick romance novel. Instead of picking it up, I made a dive for a less cutesy looking book and read that instead.

Yes, I judge books by their covers, and usually for good reason.

But my assessment happened to be way off when it came to The Help. I didn’t realize this until a year later when I saw the movie and realized that it was pretty far from a chick-flick. It’s a stellar movie, in case you’ve never seen it, and it drove me to go out and read the actual book. The Help is now up there on my “favorites” list, which is a pretty hard list to get on.
You may or may not know the gist of the storyline, so here’s a synopsis:

It’s 1962. The world is changing, the civil rights movement is spreading across America, and Jackson, Mississippi wants nothing to do with any of it. People are content to sit back and let their children be raised by under-paid black maids. Maids who they trust with their children, but won’t allow to use the same bathroom as themselves. The people of Jackson are not racist. At least they don’t see themselves as such, but nobody ever does. They raise money for the poor starving children of Africa while trampling on their own negro population. Never once do they ask the help how they feel about this.
White socialite Skeeter decides that it’s about time for somebody to bring this behavior to light. A budding writer, she wants to show the other side of Jackson, Mississippi. She wants to write a book from the perspective of the black help. But she needs to write it quick before this whole civil rights movement blows over. 
What starts out as an attempt to launch her writing career turns into Skeeter’s questioning of everything she’s ever known. She hears about Aibileen, the maid who has raised seventeen white children but had her own son killed by white men. She listens to the stories of Minny Jackson, the sass-mouthed cook who has worked for countless white people for whom her contempt knows no bounds. Soon, Skeeter realizes that this book is the most important thing she’s ever done. Not because it could make her into a famous author, but because it could change the lives of these maids for the better.

I can’t tell you how many times I found myself cheering these characters on. The Help is told in first person from three different character’s points of view: Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny. All of their voices are brilliant, unique, and the two maids tell their stories using black southern slang, which is a cool touch.

I particularly enjoyed any scene that had both Minny and her color-blind, white-trash employer: Celia Foote. Celia comes across as this delicate, naïve character, but as the book goes on we get a glimpse of an amazing inner-strength and love. When Minny and Celia, both strong in their own ways, go up against Hilly, the main antagonist in The Help, it’s pretty clear that Hilly doesn’t stand a chance.

An all-famous scene that gives an example of this would be the chocolate pie incident. If you’ve never seen it, here’s the video. Some cursing, but it does adhere to my cussing rules, so that’s okay, right? 

This is by far one of my favorite scenes. Minny, being the best cook in Jackson, makes lots of delicious foods in The Help, her three trademarks being caramel cake, chocolate custard pie, and fried chicken. Now, being gluten-free, I didn't want to try to make the cake because, well, I take my baking seriously and don't like to ruin perfectly good foods by making them gluten-free. And, in the book and movie it's mentioned that "Minny don't burn chicken." Hannah probably would, though, since she's vegetarian and not well-versed in the frying of foods.

So, of course, I knew that I had to make some Minny-inspired chocolate pie. No, not with anything else 'real special' because that's gross. Anyway, here's the recipe I came up with. It's paleo, no-bake, very easy to put together, and tastes awesome:
Ingredients - 

For the crust:
  • 3/4 cup of pitted medjool dates, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes to make them softer for blending
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts, pecans, or a mix of both if you can't decide between the two
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon 
For the filling: 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of coconut cream, which is generally about 1 can of the trader joe's stuff 
  • 3 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup 
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. TIP: If you ever see a recipe that uses vanilla or chocolate or both, but not cinnamon, run the other way because those people don't know what they're doing.
  • 1 teaspoon of corn starch for thickener 
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla 
  • 3 and 1/2 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
Directions - 

1. Place all ingredients for the crust in a vitamix or food processor, Blend until it forms a rough paste. There will probably still be chunks of dates or nuts, but that's okay. It provides a nice contrast for the smooth filling. 

2. Grab your favorite pie pan. Dollop the crust evenly in the pan. Or, you know, as evenly as you can:
Using a piece of wax paper, spread the crust evenly about, then up the sides. Wax paper is necessary, because the crust will stick to pretty much everything else. After a certain point, it's easier to do the sides with you (clean) fingers. When done, set the crust aside:
3. Put coconut cream, syrup, cinnamon, corn starch, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. In a bowl, beat egg yolks together. My younger brother, James, was awesome enough to do this for me since the smell (and look) of raw eggs makes me feel sick. Besides, James is a better egg-beater than I am. Plus, he's wearing a batman shirt, so of course it's impossible to do anything wrong in that kind of garb:
4. Add the egg to the cream mixture and place the saucepan on medium heat, whisking slowly but constantly. Once it starts to boil and thicken, immediately remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until incorporated. 

5. Let the mixture cool for about ten minutes, then pour into the crust. Chill pie in the refrigerator for about 6 hours. I pulled it out about 3 hours too soon. It still tasted good, but the slice kind of oozed over like a pudding and didn't resemble a slice of pie at all. Which is why you see only pictures of the entire pie....
Yum. The texture is very silky and I think Minny would be proud. Of course she would never say that, because she's Minny and Minny doesn't do things like that. But I'm sure she'd think it.

One of my favorite threads throughout this book was Aibileen's battle to raise up Mae Mobley, a slightly backwards toddler who's own mother dislikes her. Aibileen has raised many little girls and seen them grow up to "be just like their momma's": mean, heartless, shallow. But after seeing Mae Mobley repeatedly ignored and mistreated, Aibileen makes the decision to fight to keep her from growing up into that kind of a person. 

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

That's what she tells Mae Mobley, again and again and again. And, overtime, Aibileen sees that Mae Mobley is beginning to believe that that's true: 

I look deep into her rich brown eyes and she looks into mine. Law, she got old-soul eyes, like she done lived a thousand years. And I swear I see, down inside, the woman she gone grow up to be. A flash from the future. She is tall and straight. She is proud. And she is remembering the words I put in her head. 

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

See, it wasn't just that phrase that changed Mae Mobley's life. It was knowing that somebody believed that about her, that somebody believe that she, Mae Mobley, was kind, smart, and important. 

I think sometimes people forget how simple it is to change a person's life for the better. You don't have to get out there and write a book like Skeeter did. You don't have to overthrow an evil white lady who's ruining other people's lives, like Minny did. Sometimes all you have to do is look somebody in the eye and talk so that they know that you believe in them. That's all it takes. It's simple, and hard, and worth it. 

Kathryn Stockett's novel helps remind us of that. The Help is a book that means something. It doesn't shy away from tough topics, but it doesn't glorify them. It's covers dark times in an understandable, uplifting way. It shows the struggles of every one of us. All wrapped up in a bright yellow cover.

If you get the chance, you need to check this novel out, preferably with a slice of chocolate pie at your side. If you've already read it, leave a comment below and tell me what you thought! 

Oh, and don't forget: 

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 

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  1. I'm re-listening to the audio of The Help right now. Love this story, gonna have to try making this pie. Thanks for sharing :)

    1. That's so cool, Bethany! I'll have to check the audio version out sometime. I'd love to hear how you like the pie. =)

    2. You should. I'm real picky when it comes to audiobooks; but The Help is great, it has a different narrator for each of the perspectives the story is told from.

  2. Reading the book right now and I CAN NOT put it down! I've been struggling with finding books that don't have a massive amount of sex in them (Which, in this day and age, is near IMPOSSIBLE), so I was thrilled when I started reading it. It has such an important message, too. Plus, it's one of my fave movies. You just made it a million times better, Hannah. :)

    1. Yay! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! If you ever need a list of books within clean content, let me know. I struggle with the same thing, but I've found tons of good ones.

    2. Maybe that could be next week's post? LOL, but I could seriously use it!

  3. I read The Help several years ago, and I loved this book too, Hannah. Your recipe for choc. pie looks great! So if this is now on your fav. list, what are the other books you really love? :)

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Garland! Glad you enjoyed the post! My favs list, in no particular order, goes:
      The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton), The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas), Harry Potter (Rowling), The Great Divorce (Lewis), The Book Thief (Zusak), Shane (Schaefer), The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Adams), The Giver (Lowry), The World of Pooh (Milne) and a few more that I probably shouldn't list for sake of not leaving a super long comment. A rather eclectic list, but that's me. =D

  4. You is definitely kind. Smart. And so inspired! Looks like an amazing pie! You know, I've been looking for a chocolate pie recipe for a long time, a traditional one, which my son loves, and then finally, a blogger was kind enough to share her family's with me. Generations of women in her family have made & improved that (I love that about Americans :), so the result was something unbelievably gorgeous. It's my son's birthday a week from today, and guess what he wants? Yep, chocolate rules in our family!
    Btw, I feel like I haven't heard from you in ages! I hope you're doing okay :) Oh, and your brother looks like he might have a future as a chef * wink, wink * Have a great Sunday!

    1. Lol! Thanks Ramona! That pie sounds amazing. Old family recipes are the best. Wishing your son a happy early birthday!
      Yep, I'm doing okay. I do still have Lyme because Kansas didn't work as an instant cure. But I brought back some remedies and am taking those. Hoping to see results within the next month or so, but also trying to be realistic about it. =)
      If James grows up to be a chef I think he'll have to shoo me out of his house each morning to keep me from eating all of his food. =) Thanks for the comment! I hope you are doing well, too!

  5. Is your brother in junior high or actual high school? Because Zach is only fifth grade (They grow up so fast. *sniff sniff* LOL

    1. He'll be in high school next year. Crazy, I know! So sad, but also exciting to see them grow into awesome young men. =)

    2. True. My mom says that my brother is going to be a pastor. If that happens, I'll really have to pray for his congregation. LOL. He's a great kid, though, so that may be! =)


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