Two questions, many answers: State capitol edition


Two years ago, I was prescient. I wish I could say it was in the stock market, or foreknowledge of lottery numbers, but I can’t.

It was about entertaining during a quarantine — sort of.

For a holiday piece for another publication, I came up with the idea of a virtual potluck party. I asked notable North Carolinians if they were invited to a Kwaanza, Christmas, or Hanukkah potluck what would they bring?

Once I explained my strange idea to folks, many people RSVP’d with dishes, recipes, and stories about the origin of those dishes. Ken Smith from WRAL, community activist and musician Pierce Freelon, the mayors of both Raleigh and Durham, and state government officials participated.

Some of the recipes were included in the final piece, and some were not.

One of my very favorite recipes came from the two guests I was most excited about. Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper participated and the dish they virtually brought came from Mrs. Cooper’s Oklahoma childhood.

After church on Sundays, young Kristin and her family would go for lunch to Dodser’s Cafeteria. Her favorite treat was the pineapple fluff pie.

Years later, she discovered a very similar recipe online. She increased the amount of pillowy whipped cream, and the recipe was just as she remembered it. Today it is an anticipated part of holiday meals and special occasions for the Coopers.

It’s this crazy combination of pineapple toasted and pecan-spiked whipped cream sitting on top of a buttercream/pastry cream hybrid that’s somehow light and rich at the same time. I made it for my family and it was a huge hit with the whole tribe (plus, I got to tell them the recipe came straight from the Governor’s Mansion).

This pie is so delicious that I’ve given the First Lady honorary chef status. So, I asked her to answer our two pandemic-related culinary questions.

When the larder’s getting empty, what’s your favorite pantry meal?

“In the summer, pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and Italian parsley from the garden,” she said. “Add lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic if available at home.”

What’s your best food-related activity suggestion for staving off familial boredom and the resulting mayhem? (Maybe something you did with daughters Hilary, Natalie, and Claire when they were small, and you were all stuck in the house?).

“My daughters and I loved having tea parties at home. We’d have tea with loose leaves, a teapot, homemade scones, and clotted cream with strawberry jam. Those afternoons were always a treat.”

And although my original idea was for a holiday potluck, having a virtual party via Zoom or Google Hangouts with friends is perfect if you’re sheltering in different places. To add some spice, exchange recipes and everyone makes somebody else’s special dish.

Enjoy your remote soiree. And as Dave Bautista says in that commercial, “Pants optional!”

Thanks for your time.

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