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LET'S COOK: Gratitude, lemon pie and singing

March 6, 2018
Chuck Repnow , Pierce County Tribune

My wife, Jan, has a plaque hanging in our kitchen that reads, "Gratitude turns what we have into Enough." This message started me thinking about how singing has brought gratitude, happiness and sense of good stillness into my life. I participated in the Minot Heritage Singers 29th annual Variety Show. This was the fourth variety show in which I have been involved. The show each year has a theme which is kept a secret until the opening night. Last year the theme was called "Funsmoke" and had a western theme. The cast of character included Miss Filly Fortune, Marshall Puppy, Doc Malady, Mayor Milktoast, a crew of Colorado Kids, and yours truly as the Colorado Kid. The program always includes a several music numbers by the group and individuals, skits, and numbers by the Heritage Band. The show runs for six performances and draws in a number of devoted fans.

When we moved to Minot four years ago, I was asked to be part of this fine singing group. We practice each Thursday evening for a couple of hours at First Lutheran on Broadway. Dave Jensen is our director and his lovely wife, Lynn, is our pianist. Performing with this male chorus has brought to mind some of the lessons learned from singing.

We learn that singing gives peace. Singing requires a certain amount of stillness to learn new pieces. In the mad rush of our lives, it would be easy to not join a group. However, as Dave directs, there comes a sense of quietness from learning and being present. The tones of the busy day seem to disappear as we explore the color, movement and waking of a new song.

We learn to think! When facing those very high or low notes, and especially if we are facing the adversity of rushing lyrics, it makes you think. During practice and performance, the joint effort of the group has a way of coming into focus. From time to time I just stop and listen to the group and think to myself "wow!" It is a golden moment that make us all eager to explore the complexities of music.

We learn to appreciate. Our rushing world can cause us to lost sight of the grace of gratitude. Moments of dependence upon others make us aware of how much we need one another. I have witnessed this with fellow singers many times. It could be something as simple as offering someone encouragement, sending a card, or gathering an offering for someone who has suffered a fire. It has been said that "the Heritage Singers are a family." With this thought in mind, our friendships in the group take on new meaning. By sensing the needs of others, we make our own burdens lighter.

We learn to laugh often. I cannot recall a single practice that has not been injected with humor. There is something about a great laugh that sets everyone at ease and laughing at ourselves comes easy. The group has men from a diverse background so humor runs from A to Z. We do try to refrain from disgracing any of our directors in public by not wearing white socks with our black tuxes.

Fact Box

Lemon Meringue Pie


- 3 cup all-purpose flour

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1 cup lard or shortening

- Milk as needed

- 1 egg yolk, beaten

- 1 tablespoon vinegar

Sift together flour and salt; cut in shortening or lard until crumbly. Add enough milk to egg yolk, vinegar to make cup. Add to flour mixture, blending until moistened. Roll out on a well-floured surface. This makes two very large crust. Drape crust over pie plate and flute the edge and the bottom several times before baking in a 375 degree oven until golden brown.

Tips for crust making: When cutting shortening into flour mixture, use two tables knifes with a back and forth action or use a pastry blender. Make sure added liquid is cold and avoid over mixing dough with your hands.

I prefer to use shortening or lard that has been slightly chilled Allow dough to rest 20 to 30 minutes before rolling out. Chilling your rolling pin makes for easier rolling out.


- 1 cups sugar

- 5 tablespoons cornstarch plus 1 teaspoon flour

- 1 cup hot water

- 3 egg yolks, beaten

- 3 tablespoons butter

- cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

- 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

Mix sugar and cornstarch with hot water and bring to a bubbling boil, stirring often until mixture starts to turn clear. Remove from heat and add beaten egg yolks, lemon juice and butter. Return to heat and cook until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add lemon rind.

Easy Meringue:

- 4 large egg whites

- teaspoon cream of tartar

- 4 to 5 tablespoons of sugar

- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Have egg whites at room temperature. Rinse out the mixing bowl with boiling hot water, dry with towel and add egg whites. Beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium speed until frothy and then add cream of tartar. Increase speed of mixer to high and continue beating until soft peaks start to form. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time incorporating well before adding the next. Continue beating until peaks develop a curl and then add vanilla.

The lemon filling must be hot when you dress it out with the meringue and making sure to seal the meringue to the edge of the pie crust. This sealing will prevent meringue from shrinking. Once meringue is piled high place in a 375 degree oven and bake until meringue is slightly golden.

You will want to watch this carefully as meringue tends to brown easily. When pie is removed from oven allow it to cool in a draft free place.

We learn to give back. Much of our singing is done in concerts but from time to time we do sing outs at benefits and nursing homes. When you look out into the audience and see how people are transformed by music, you know that singing is something special. Last fall while singing at a nursing home I glanced out into the crowd as we sang "God Bless America" and residents were singing along. I loved watching them as they became engaged and their eyes we bright with this moment and perhaps a past reflection. These humble folks representing Veterans, teachers, and farmers in their sunset years, still revealing concern for others as we connected through the happiness of a song.

I cannot make a decent basketball layup, tune up a car engine, or shingle a roof. However, give me lemons and I can create wonderful Lemon Meringue pie. For the past four years, I have taken a lemon meringue pie each evening to the silent auction at the Heritage Singers Variety Show. Folks continue to bid them up and often ask for the recipe. My very favorite and go to recipe comes from Mrs. Fred (Lydia) Eman, of Underwood. I first made this pie when I was 12 years old and it continues to win praises. I have tried other recipes that feature adding vinegar, more flour but this one seems to have just the right combination.

Much of successful pie baking comes from experience and allowing enough time to do a good job. Tips such as using lemons that are at room temperature also aid in creating a sweet success. Now if your pie does not turn out perfectly, just try again and after 20 times you are still having flops then I would suggest you give a try to basketball layups, engine tune ups or roofing!



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