11-Mile Treat: Lemon Icebox Pie


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Week Three
Total Mileage: 22 miles
Weekend Meal: Whole wheat noodles with spicy peanut sauce and vegetables

Week Four
Total Mileage: 29 miles
Weekend Meal: Chili, salad, Camembert, and lemon icebox pie

I just had to make lemon icebox pie.

I had a reason to celebrate: Week Four is a landmark in the marathon training program I'm using. The weekend's long run is 11 miles—almost half the distance of the marathon itself, and the first run where mileage hits double digits.

Plus, I had the appetite to appreciate dessert. Week Four is when my hunger goes into overdrive, when I have to bring extra snacks to work so I can make it to lunchtime without devouring my sandwich and survive the afternoon without feeling faint. I make dinner plans carefully, knowing I'll be cranky if I have to wait past 7 p.m. to eat.

Yankee that I am, I'd never heard of, let alone tasted, lemon icebox pie until I moved to Leland, Mississippi.

I did my Week Four long run along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Capitol Crescent Trail through Georgetown and then out toward Maryland. It was a cold, beautiful, wintry Sunday morning—the water in the canal was frozen and snow was the ground, and I could almost convince myself I was on a weekend getaway to a cross-country ski lodge rather than in the middle of a marathon training run just a few miles outside of downtown D.C.

After returning home, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on all the things I eat when my body starts needing more—dried cranberries to add to salads, peach mango juice to supplement my constant water drinking, grapefruits and high-fiber cereals for the bigger breakfast I know I'll be needing. I also bought the butter, sugar, eggs, and other ingredients I needed for dessert.

I mixed up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough—I use the classic Nestle Toll House recipe with a little less flour and all brown sugar instead of half brown, half regular—to freeze and have on hand during the week. But that wasn't enough. I couldn't honor the Week Four milestone with cookies I've been making since I was 10 from a recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate chips. The occasion called for something special. It called for lemon icebox pie.

Yankee that I am, I'd never heard of, let alone tasted, lemon icebox pie until I moved to Leland, Mississippi after college. And since I rarely seek out citrusy desserts—I'm more of a chocolate or caramel person—it's likely that my ignorance would have continued had my roommate's mother not bought one from Leland's Mennonite bakery and served it to us as dessert for Rosh Hashana dinner our first fall there.

The pie was an intensely lemony custard with a crumbled graham cracker crust, topped with airy whipped cream. As the name suggests, it's served chilled, but it's not cold and solid like ice cream cake or semifreddo—it's cool and smooth, like a rich yogurt.

I bought the pie from Connie's Kitchen countless times during my two and a half years in Leland. It wasn't until I returned North and received Martha Hall Foose's Screen Doors and Sweet Tea for my birthday last year that it even occurred to me I could make the dish myself. I'd figured it was a complicated recipe that could be mastered only by Southern women past the age of 50, so I'd added it to my list of desserts I love but would never attempt, like Napoleons and macarons (the sandwich kind made with egg whites, not the almond-and-coconut variety).

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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