Project Description

Virginia is a weird state.

Any Virginian will tell you that Virginia is actually two states: Southern Virginia and Northern Virginia (Nova). This doesn’t include West Virginia, our backwards and much-taunted neighbors. Live in Virginia long enough and you’re bound to hear a West Virginia joke.

Now, I haven’t done any official polling or anything, but I don’t think many Nova residents consider themselves Southerners, unless they are from the area originally. Nova has too much D.C. influence, too much city rush.

However, start traveling south on Interstate 95 and you’ll see a distinct shift in attitude. Life changes pace, sweet tea is a beverage staple, and you’re almost guaranteed to be greeted with a smile at any store. You have officially entered the South.

Want to know how to spot a Virginian? They don’t have thick, Southern accents (or any accents at all), but they say ya’ll. It’s true. Now you know!

My grandmother lived in Baltimore for many years, but spent the majority of her life in Virginia. I believe she considered herself a Southern lady – you can tell by her recipes! I found this little tattered piece of paper in her recipe box:


I’ve made chess pie before, but I was anxious to try out this one. I did have to adjust the ingredient amounts (I had too much filling, even for a deep dish pie shell!), but I tried my best to keep everything else the same.

Chess pie is an interesting beast. Simple ingredients, a dark, almost burnt, “crust” on top, and a creamy, custard-like texture. This pie is better the next day, so keep your paws off for 24 hours!

Nellie’s Coconut Chess Pie
Recipe Type: Pie
Author: My grandmother, Nellie
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces evaporated milk
  • 3 ounces coconut
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 9 inch deep dish pie crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a stand or hand mixture, beat the eggs and sugar together for about 2 minutes on medium speed. Mixture should have thickened a little.
  3. Stir in evaporated milk, coconut, butter, and vanilla extract. Mixture will be quite liquidy.
  4. Pour into pie shell and bake for 45-55 minutes. Check pie at 45 minutes and cover with foil if getting too brown, keeping in mind that it should look quite dark on top. Pie is done when the center is still a little jiggly but the edges are firm.
  5. Let cool and refrigerate overnight.