Forty years ago today, I woke up early at my parents' house in Orlando, tried not to make too much noise as I grabbed the car keys, and left before dawn with my friend Pam to drive my dad's black VW beetle to Cape Canaveral to watch Apollo 11 lift off for the moon.
We got as close as we could to the Cape in the pre-dawn hours, which meant—at least for us—parking with about a million other cars along U.S. 1, then spreading out a blanket on the shoulder of the road and trying to get a little more sleep, our heads only feet from the wheels of the huge semi trucks that rolled north toward Jacksonville about every three minutes.
The launch, much later in the day, was impressive. There's no way to really describe the roar the big rocket made as it lifted off into the sky. It was a thrilling moment.
Pam and I didn't want to fight the traffic going back toward Orlando, so we drove to Cocoa Beach and had a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. We got back to Orlando with the bare minimum of time to be driven to the bus station to catch our ride home to Gainesville, but not before my mom produced two slices of homemade black bottom pie. Of course, we each had to have a piece! And then, we had to have another.
Yes, we ate the whole dang pie in about five minutes. I remember being fairly uncomfortable on the long bus ride back home.
After we got back to Gainesville, we caught a ride with another friend (who had a car!) to Jacksonville to see my favorite band, The Tropics, out of St. Petersburg. I had a huge crush on the bass player; my favorite song of theirs was "Badge," which had been recorded by Cream and had a wicked bass line.
We got home late that night. We were very tired. When I stumbled in to work the next day, none of my supervisors had remembered that I had turned in a vacation leave form for July 16, 1969. They acted like their bad memories were all my fault! One of my first encounters with workplace hell.
But their bad memories weren't my problem. I had just made a memory to last a lifetime.
Here's my mom's recipe.
BLACK BOTTOM PIE (filling for one pie)
Make pie crust; bake and cool.
Soften 1 pkg. plain gelatin in 4 Tbsps. cool water. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1-1/4 Tbsp. cornstarch. Separate 2 eggs. Add beaten yolks to sugar mixture, then gradually add 2 cups milk. Cook slowly until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & reserve 1 cup mixture.
Add gelatin to remaining mixture; stir until dissolved. Then add 1 tsp. rum flavoring. Add 1 to 1-1/2 squares chocolate to the 1 cup mixture, melt and mix with rotary beater, then stir in 1 tsp. vanilla. Put the shallow chocolate layer into the pie crust. Chill. Chill the gelatin mix until it begins to set; fold in beaten egg whites to which 1/4 cup sugar has been added w. a bit of salt and cream of tartar. Pour this on top of chocolate layer; chill and serve with whipped cream or grated chocolate or tiny chocolate bits.
(The picture of the pie, above, is from Nibbledish.)