The Nanny Project

The Nanny Project : Rhea's Sugar Pie

The Nanny Project.

What is that?

It's an idea I came up with over two years ago. An idea to showcase recipes belonging to the women we call Nanny, or Nana, or Grandma (or whichever name we may have for them).

It's about tried and true recipes. Dishes that, the moment we take a taste, make us weak with nostalgia to be held by our grandmothers - smell their perfume one more time.

It's about women of generations gone by. Women whose lives we may know very little about.

And about how recipes are threads that tie us to the past.


I've posted about grandmother's a few times now. Here, here and my favourite, here.

Since the last time I posted a grandmother's recipe, I've pitched The Nanny Project as a cookbook idea to two different publishers, and both were excited by the notion. One wanted to sign a contract immediately after meeting, however, something big has come up that has pulled my focus (pun intended - more details to follow).

And so, for now, I'll continue to post these tried and true, tested-on-generations, grandma's recipes as I come across them.

The recipe for Rhea's Sugar Pie comes to me from a somewhat lengthy family connection. Rhea Marinier was my dad's wife Wanda's, sister Ruby's, husband Denis' mother.

Got it?

I don't know much about Rhea other than she lived in Quebec and that Ruby said she was a great lady, funny and she loved life.

Sounds like my kind of woman.

Yesterday, when I made Rhea's recipe, was the first time I've had Sugar Pie and if you're wondering, yes it's DAMN SWEET but it's oh so good. And how on earth can you resist the name? I knew it had to be next on my roster of posts when I couldn't stop singing this song -

Rhea's Sugar Pie

single unbaked pie shell, homemade or store-bought

2 C brown sugar

1.5 Tbsp flour

1 can evaporated milk

5 Tbsp butter (75g)

1 egg

0.5 tsp vanilla

- mix all and put in unbaked pie crust - bake 30-35 minutes

That's it for directions so I'm going to take it one step further and supplement the original steps with the steps I found helpful.

- preheat oven to 350º

- in a large bowl, whisk brown sugar and flour to combine and break up lumps in brown sugar

- whisk in evaporated milk

- whisk in egg and vanilla

- melt butter and whisk in

- pour filling into pie crust and bake 30-35 minutes - pie is done when it puffs slightly and has a slight jiggle in the middle - remove from oven and cool

- optional - top slices with whipped cream and a little sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon or cocoa

The Nanny Project : Clara's Butterscotch Pie

The Nanny Project.

What is that?

It's an idea I came up with over a year ago. An idea to showcase recipes belonging to the women we call Nanny, or Nana, or Grandma (or whichever names we may have for them).

It's about tried and true recipes. Dishes that, the moment we take a taste, make us weak with nostalgia to be held by our grandmothers - smell their perfume one more time.

It's about women of generations gone by. Women whose lives we may know very little about.

And about how recipes are threads that tie us to the past.

I've been living in Cape Breton for 8 months now. A few weeks ago, I got to chatting with Grace MacDonald, a lovely local woman I've befriended here in Inverness, about Butterscotch Pie.

'Butterscotch Pie seems to be a thing here in Cape Breton', I said to her.
'Oh it is', Grace said, 'Everyone in Cape Breton is raised eating Butterscotch Pie'.
'Do you have a recipe I could try?', I asked.
'If you want a Butterscotch Pie recipe, you have to talk to Carmella. Hers is the best I've ever had', Grace replied.

So I did.

Carmella MacIsaac, a retired schoolteacher, is close friends with Grace and I see her about once a week. The next time I saw Carmella, I rushed over and blurted out,

'Grace says you have a Butterscotch Pie recipe and that it's truly delicious the best she's ever had and I'm wondering if there's any way you would be willing to share it with me oh and would you mind if I post it on my blog?'

She probably thought I was nuts but Carmella graciously agreed to share the recipe with me and also gave me permission to share it with you. 

My goal with The Nanny Project is to share grandmother's recipes as well as stories about the women behind the recipes. For this, the first in The Nanny Project series, I don't actually know anything about Clara other than she was Carmella's husband's mother, and that this, her Butterscotch Pie recipe, is very old (it's been adapted over recent years to be made in the microwave). 


Clara's Butterscotch Pie

9-inch pie crust, baked until golden, cooled (or 36 2-inch pie crusts)

1.5 C milk

1.5 C brown sugar

0.5 C flour

2 egg yolks

Good lump of butter (heaping Tablespoon)

1 tsp vanilla

- heat milk

- mix brown sugar and flour together

- add milk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla

- mix well and cook in the microwave for one minute - whisk well - repeat about three times, whisking well each time - should have a thick consistency after three minutes (mine took five and a half minutes)

- cool - pour into prepared pie shell(s) - top with whipped cream or meringue


I made 36 2-inch pies and every single one was eaten within the day. I gifted half a dozen to a friend and afterwards, received this message:

'Those tartlets were absolutely divine. My husband called them 'one-bites of love'.'

I guess that's a pretty decent endorsement.