Lemon meringue pie reminds me of my dad. It was his favorite dessert, and he especially liked Grandma Murphy’s version, with its tart filling and fluffy mountain of meringue. My grandma often came over to our house for Sunday dinner when I was little, and she always brought dessert. My dad was most excited when he discovered a lemon meringue smiling up at him from under her plastic cake carrier.
I made lemon meringue pie for the first time last summer. As I rolled out the pastry, whipped the egg whites to soft peaks and mixed the lemon filling, all I could think of was my dad. I imagined that he was coming to visit, and that I was making this pie just for him. I took meticulous care with every step. I imagined that once the pie had cooled, I would cut him a slice. A giant wedge with a thick ribbon of lemon filling and heaps of meringue with stiff, golden peaks. Then I would cut myself a slice just like it. And we would sit at my kitchen table, the afternoon sun streaming through the back windows, and shoot the breeze and eat pie, savoring every perfect bite, savoring the moment itself, because isn’t it wonderful to be alive.
My dad would be 62 years old today. It’s hard to imagine how he might have changed in the past 16 years. Would his hair and beard be completely gray? Would you be able to count more lines around his eyes when he smiled? Would he still blare his favorite records when no else was home and he had the house all to himself?
It’s funny, I didn’t actually like lemon meringue pie when I was a kid (fruit-based desserts were seriously sub-par to chocolate ones at the time), but I’ve grown to love it, and will continue to make it for special occasions, and just-because ones, in memory of my dad.
Preheat oven to 425°F
Prepare pie crust and bake according to recipe instructions. Blind bake raw pie shell for 10 to 12 minutes. My grandma often pre-bakes her pie shell the day before filling it, so that it’s completely cooled.
Preheat oven to 350°F
Prepare the Shirriff’s lemon pie filling according to directions on the box and add to cooled crust.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture is very firm; standing peaks should form when you remove the beaters. Spread over filling, arranging meringue in attractive peaks. Bake until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.
* I was surprised that my grandma, who makes everything from scratch, uses (gasp!) store-bought filling for this recipe. “There’s no point going to the fuss of making it yourself because Shirriff’s lemon pie filling is so good,” Grandma says. Who can argue with that?!