This lemon meringue pie helped me both celebrate and mourn my mother

"[This pie] took us out of our reverie and for a moment, filled the vacuum that the loss of our mother has created"

By Bibi Hutchings


Published May 11, 2023 2:59PM (EDT)

Lemon meringue pie (Bibi Hutchings)
Lemon meringue pie (Bibi Hutchings)

In "Bibi's Gulf Coast Kitchen," columnist Bibi Hutchings takes you on a culinary journey across the coastal south. Come for the great food writing, stay for the delicious recipes.

My sister Amy and I made our mom's Lemon Meringue Pie last night and agreed that it is one of the best things we have ever tasted. Having not had it in quite some time, it was just as we remembered: creamy, slightly tart, perfectly sweet, with an incredible mouthfeel thanks to the vanilla cookie crumb crust and the airy, cloud-like meringue.  

Unfortunately, we got a late start on our pie. We forgot it has to chill a couple of hours in the refrigerator before serving, so we didn't get a piece until almost ten o'clock last night. It was worth the wait. And after the week she and I have had, we felt very deserving of our late night indulgence. Tasting it was a familiar kind of Heaven that made us feel like kids again. We savored every bite.  

Since our mom passed away about five months ago, Amy and I have struggled to begin the inevitable task of dismantling and sorting through everything left behind in her house. She had such a flair for decorating and was gifted at putting things in artful groupings and arrangements, at fluffing her place and making it look like a page out of a magazine, that it has felt sacrilegious to move anything, much less to go in taking things off the walls and making stacks and piles of it all. 

But, we are knee deep in it now and making a bit of headway, despite wading through it all at a snail's pace. We get caught up looking through old photographs and reading letters and cards, learning things we didn't know about her while reliving our entire lives through her saved pictures, newspaper cuttings, playbills and posters. It is its own sort of funeral going through your mother's things in your mother's home, one that seems to go on like a play with too many acts and no intermission. 

The process has been emotionally draining (and we are nowhere near done), but we have managed to laugh and find joy throughout our days toiling away. It has been fun spending time together, eating meals together and even staying nights together as I live farther away than Amy and don't always want to make the drive home when I can stay with her. Unearthing things we have not seen for so many years has been a treat. One such treasure that we found yesterday was an old recipe book of Mom's with all her recipes written out in her beautiful longhand. This Lemon Meringue Pie was included in it and we took it as a sign that we needed to make one. When we left Mom's, we stopped by The Pig (Piggly Wiggly) on our way to Amy's, got everything we needed and jumped right in to making this pie as soon as we walked through the door.  

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After this first full week working tirelessly at Mom's, missing her and reliving and remembering so much from our childhood and adulthood, one thing has been made very clear: We are our mother's daughters. From the way we care for her things, to the way we followed her recipe last night — trying so hard to do it just as she did  to how our tastes have been shaped by her, we carry her with us. 

This Lemon Meringue pie gave Amy and me a great ending to what was a very rough day. Combining these simple ingredients and going through the motions of making it transported us back to all the days we ooh'd and ahh'd over it with Mom. It brought us back to family dinners and poolside picnics. It took us out of our reverie and for a moment, filled the vacuum that the loss of our mother has created. 

I think this might become our Mother's Day pie . . . at least for a while. 

Happy Mother's Day, Mom  xoxo 

Lemon Meringue Pie    
08 servings
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes



Vanilla wafers

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft or melted

1/8 to 1/4 cup sugar



3 egg yolks, save whites and set aside

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 can condensed milk



3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. To make the crust, finely crush 17-18 vanilla wafers and mix well with butter and sugar.

  3. Press crust mixture into the bottom of a pie dish.

  4. Place additional whole vanilla wafers around the sides of the dish.

  5. To make the filling, whisk egg yolks with lemon juice, then add condensed milk and whisk vigorously for about a minute.

  6. Pour the mixture into your prepared dish and bake for 8 minutes.

  7. Remove and allow to cool while you make the meringue. You can turn the oven off at this point.

  8. To make the meringue, whip egg whites with cream of tartar using a mixer. Add sugar about a third at the time along with a small pinch of salt. Continue to whip until you have stiff peaks.

  9. Spoon meringue over pie, making decorative peaks or swirls and place under the broiler in the oven.

  10. Do not walk away  watch continuously! It won't take long, 2 minutes as most. Take the pie out as soon as the meringue turns light tan with slightly darker peaks.

  11. Refrigerate before serving. It should be served cold.   

Cook's Notes

-Lemon juice: You can use fresh or bottled lemon juice in this pie.

-Broiling the meringue: Leave your oven door cracked or even open when you are broiling the meringue so that you can keep an eye on it the entire time. You can easily scorch your pie if you leave it even the smallest bit too long.

-Cooling: You don't have to wait until the custard is totally cool before putting the meringue on top and continuing on to broil. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then proceed on to making the meringue, spooning it on and broiling.

-Whipping to "stiff peaks": First, make sure your egg whites are at room temperature. Use a glass or metal bowl and make sure not a drop of oil, water or egg yolk is in your bowl or on your whisk/beater. Beat on Medium. Soft peaks are when you lift your whisk and a peak forms but doesn't stay upright. Stiff peaks are when you lift your whisk and the peak forms and stays upright.

-Lastly, do not over beat! As soon as you reach the stiff peaks stage, stop immediately.

By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.         

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