Determination Pie

While my Grandma Bert was all about from-scratch meals and hours in her kitchen rolling dough and preserving strawberries fresh from the field, my Grandma Clara valued convenience and time management.

I take after my Grandma Clara in the kitchen.

Because of my tendency to be more interested in scooting in and out of the kitchen rather than stretching out and doing some culinary damage, I find myself a little stuck as I look at the other posts in Babble’s COOL WHIP Whipped Topping campaign.

I just can’t write a recipe for you. I don’t have it in me.

What I do have are stories and a connection to COOL WHIP. There’s a reason we keep it in the refrigerator and it isn’t so I can design multiple layers of photographable awesome.

COOL WHIP means time spent together with family for me. It means adding that something extra to show your love, regardless of how long that extra something took.

The campaign tagline is “What you add makes it.” I was sold, right there, because in my head I filled in the spaces between the letters and heard, “What you add, as a mom, makes it mean something more.”

Let me tell you about my Grandma Clara.

My Grandma Clara is my mom’s mom. She passed away at 70, while I was in college, far too soon. I miss her every day. I rummage through my memories of her and cling to reminders of her smell, reframing our time together in my head so I can refresh it and remember anew. I remember how her arms felt, how her laugh sounded.

I remember her at her kitchen sink. Rinsing dishes. I can see her face across the kitchen table from me, playing TROUBLE while the food cooked. I see her looking over her glasses at me as we dove into her chocolate pie with COOL WHIP. She was mischievous. Her pies tasted mischievous. As though we had tricked someone somewhere along the line and the pie was our booty.

Every moment together was a treasure and she knew it. Therefore, no wasted time in the kitchen. She would show her love in other ways, but handmade from scratch wouldn’t necessarily be it. She learned how to savor joys of convenience out of necessity.

Clara divorced my mom’s dad in 1962. Scandalous, as you can imagine. A divorced mother of two young girls in the early 1960’s, she went to work in her small rural Illinois town at a shoe factory. I don’t even want to measure the hardships loaded into that last sentence.

Before the divorce, she would make for her family her famous chocolate meringue pie. Every bit from scratch, she poured her love into the handmade graham cracker crust, the countless ingredients comprising the filling, and each perfectly browned, time-intensive stiff-whipped peak of meringue.

After the divorce, time and energy were luxuries. She wanted nothing more than to come home to her little girls and relax with them after long days at the factory, if even that luxury could be captured. Pies were relegated to special occasions.

This is where COOL WHIP enters the story and impresses an indelible mark of kind relief into our family’s history. COOL WHIP offered her the convenience of semi-homemade and fostered the feeling of fulfillment from those simple acts of giving, in turn rebuilding her own confidence.

Grandma Clara’s COOL WHIP Chocolate Pie (recipe according to my mom):

Put graham crackers between wax paper sheets and crush with a rolling pin – pour the crumbs in a bowl and add enough melted butter to hold crumbs together.
Mash the mixture into a pie pan.
Pour cold milk and instant chocolate pudding mix into a large jar with lid. Close and shake until blended. Set in refrigerator to chill and firm up slightly.
Pour into graham cracker crust.
Top with COOL WHIP and use the back of a large spoon to make peaks. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and crushed nuts (optional)


Simple and perfect. The semi-homemade pie tasted just as wonderful as the from-scratch pie before the divorce. We know this. I imagine it was even more delightful and all the more meaningful to those little girls.

My mom recalled that complex time, as a child, “Mom worked a lot and did little for herself. When I saw her happy was when she was able to go somewhere and do something other than factory work or laundry or ironing or trying to find a ride somewhere or getting me to the doctor and the constant trying to find some way to pay for everything. When she was able to go somewhere like a wedding, family reunion, cook-out or spaghetti supper, she could laugh and relax for a short time. So, I guess that is why the COOL WHIP chocolate pie memories are better than others – COOL WHIP was tied to happy.”

And don’t you know, her semi-homemade pie would qualify as 100% homemade in my kitchen. I learned from the best.

When what you add makes it, my Grandma Clara added grace, patience, and devoted love, tempered with perspective and determination.


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A big thanks to COOL WHIP Whipped Topping for sponsoring this campaign. Sponsored posts are purely editorial content and are not advertiser produced. Click here to see more of the Babble discussion, as mentioned above.
What you add makes it. #coolwhipmoms

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Read more of Megan’s writing at
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More of Megan on Threadbare Theory:

Preserving Summer (the one about my Grandma Bert and strawberry preserves)
Spinning Moments Into Memories (the closest I’ll come to my own recipe)
When Is Summer Vacation for Grown-Ups?

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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