The front door was never locked when my family and I would arrive for dinner at my grandparent's house. You could be sure my grandmother would lock it the moment we left; however, because she was a worrier by nature. My father would lead us right in and immediately a waft of oregano and Romano cheese would engulf us. In the kitchen, stood my grandmother, Rosalie, a little Sicilian woman who I am sure kept all the secrets to being happy in the pocket of her lace trimmed apron. "C'mon in" she'd shout out to us from the stove as she taste tested the pasta sauce and double dipped her wooden spoon. My grandfather would be in "his chair" by the tv rooting for the opposing team of whoever was playing our hometown team. The windows were always closed to keep the draft from the nearby bay away and the house always felt like 80 degrees. My dad would settle in on the couch next to his dad, my mother would offer to help in the kitchen, and my sister and I would run to the freezer to ensure my grandmother had reserved a frozen Twix bar for each of us (she never failed us).
Meal after meal, my family would gather around my grandmother's dining table discussing her current struggle with her weight (she was always up a pound or down a pound), the impending doom of the Seattle Mariner's baseball season, or general family banter. My grandmother's cheeks would flush with a rosy pink if anyone made an off-color joke and she would say extra prayers for us that night when she went to bed. After the meal was over and we couldn't stuff our bellies with anymore food, she would bring out dessert. Something truly unique about Rosalie is that she would bake a different pie for every member of our family during the holidays. This over indulgence of baking would lead to about 10 pies for 10 people. We all had our favorite and she could not bear to disappoint anyone by leaving one out. Unlike the typical Italian women you see portrayed on tv, my grandmother wasn't hot-headed, quick tempered, or feisty. My grandmother was all about the love with none of the spice. She literally was sweeter than pie.
Presently, I am no longer the little girl peering into my grandmother’s kitchen and sneaking Twix bars before dinner. I am 29. My grandmother has passed and I am living in the house she loved and nurtured for all those years we were blessed to have her. You know her home well if you follow me on Instagram. You've seen that front door and the same stove that produced all those thousands of Italian dinners. You've seen the wood floors that I ran along as a child and the yard that my sister and I grew up gardening in with my grandparents. The house has changed a bit since I moved in, and if you know anything about me, you know it won't stay one way for long. What I hope doesn't change is the spirit of my grandmother in this home. Like her, I love to bake for my family and friends. Like her, I am loyal to a fault and feel guilty when I can't do my best for everyone. Like her, I put God and my family first. It is important to me to carry on some of the family traditions she was so well known for: loving her family, serving her friends, and baking a mean pie (or 10) for her favorite people. I hope this recipe makes it into your home and is as deeply enjoyed as it has been in our home for so many years. Perhaps, when you make it, you will imagine the sweet little Sicilian with the house by the bay.
Rosalie's Cracker Pie Recipe
20 saltine crackers
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
4 egg whites
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (may be substituted for other nuts such as macadamia, pecans etc. or a combination)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Chop crackers to fine crumbs in a food processor
Mix baking powder and cracker crumbs in bowl
Chop walnuts into fine crumbs in a food processor
Add to cracker mixture, set aside
Beat egg whites until stiff peak forms but not dry
Gradually beat in sugar a little at a time
Gently fold in vanilla
Fold in Cracker/Nut mixture
Pour into a well-greased 9" round pie dish
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until firm and golden
Cool at room temperature and garnish with homemade whipped cream before serving