If we were having coffee today, I’d offer you this piece I wrote on The Pie.
In the early 1990s, I was a moderator on what was called a USENET newsgroup; the newsgroup existed specifically for users to share recipes. Before the web, USENET was basically THE internet. It actually worked a lot like facebook does today, with forums, posts, immediate access, and worldwide access. But it was all text. It was pretty much self-regulated too, by a cadre of computer professionals who helped form the early beginnings of the internet. It was a fascinating time to be internet savvy.
Anyway, a guy who was starting up a new recipe web page contacted the moderators and asked us to send him some recipes so he could flesh out the beginnings of his website, recipezaar.com. He wisely did not want to just steal recipes, he was looking to create a recipe sharing site where people could freely exchange.
Sometime before that my wife Gretchen had seen an intriguing “Amish” Buttermilk Pie on a recipe segment of a local TV station. All she managed to do was copy down the list of ingredients. I used similar custard pie recipes to figure out the procedures and baking specifics. We loved it. But shortly after that, we lost the list of ingredients before we had recorded them elsewhere. They were scribbled on the back of some envelope.
At one point I put out a request for buttermilk pie recipes on the newsgroup.
I bet I gained ten pounds testing the various recipes that were shared but not one was as good as that original. Just when everything seemed hopeless I opened a cookbook and … there was the envelope!!!!!!
I did two things … made a pie to verify that yes, this WAS better than all the others, and then I wrote it down in several places. By some serendipitous accident, this was the precise time this gentleman was requesting recipes so I submitted it, as sort of a fail-safe. I forgot about this for about four years until a friend of mine noticed it on recipezaar and asked me about it. He said it had a bunch of positive reviews. I hadn’t even registered as a user yet … but I got signed up and got the recipe attached to my profile. Fame at last.
This has continued to this day, but recipezaar was sold at some point, at least twice and possibly three times. The original recipe has survived intact, along with all the reviews. It is now the foundation of food.com.
All through its life, it has generally turned up first in searches for “Buttermilk” or “Buttermilk Pie” … and there is a reason for this. Food.com no longer prints recipe numbers but the previous websites did … this recipe is #56, which I am sure is used as a unique database identifier (I am an IT guy). A search with no other criteria will turn them out in numeric order. This is still the case. If you look at the link I provide below, you’ll still see “56” … this is 56 out of over five hundred thousand recipes.
Now … a couple of years ago I concocted a free promotional cookbook … a companion book to my novels and I decided to include the buttermilk pie recipe (with minor modifications).
In the past month, I have heavily promoted the cookbook, most of that on Twitter. So a few days ago when I received a message on Twitter about the pie I assumed it was from one of my thousands of new readers (seriously, this promotion month has been pretty good).
I probably confused her with portions of my response because I referred to other recipes and asked for a review. After a few messages back and forth she informed me she got it from food.com! With my big promotion, I didn’t even think about that location!
I call the recipe in the cookbook “The Best-Danged Buttermilk Pie” and it is listed as a customer favorite in the fictional cafe. I even mention that fact in the latest novel, LUCKY STRIKE.
I’ll tell you this … get it from the website or get it from the cookbook, I don’t care. Just GET IT. This pie is that awesome.
Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.