The Commissary Coconut Pie1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
4 ounces unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated coconut
Mix flour and sugar. Separate egg yolks from whites and save whites for meringue. Mix yolks with flour mixture; add milk; mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. When thick, remove from heat add butter and vanilla. Mix well and add coconut; pour mixture into cooked pie shell.
Meringue6 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons grated coconut
Add sugar to egg whites and beat until stiff. Spoon mixture over the top of pie with teaspoon in a swirling motion; sprinkle with coconut. Brown in a 450 degree oven. Remove when top of meringue turns light brown; refrigerate for 2 hours. Recently while enjoying some fried green tomatoes with a friend, I was reminded of another West Tennessee woman and her connection to this epic summer dish.
What you might not know about fried green tomatoes is that the comedy-drama film of the same name which was based on the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, starred a Memphis native.
Kathy Bates, who played opposite Jessica Tandy in this picture that was nominated for two Academy Awards, graduated from White Station High School.
Bates sighs, “I love fried green tomatoes.”
Kathy took a part of Memphis with her when she left, and laughs that she always finds her accent when she gets within a hundred mile radius of the Delta. One thing she never found time to do was cook, so she simply relies on some good cooks in Memphis.
She is confident that FedEx can deliver the best barbecue with all the trimmings to her, ready to entertain her guests. She doesn’t even have chairs around her dining room table and loves to spend time-off in a motor home crisscrossing the country with a friend.
“The best thing I make is reservations,” Bates added.
She’s the youngest of three daughters of Bertye, a homemaker, and Langdon Bates, a mechanical engineer. You know we Southerners need a little family history, so just know that one of her great-great-grandfathers, who emigrated from Ireland to New Orleans, served as President Andrew Jackson's doctor.
Kathy Bates has battled both ovarian and breast cancer, and she underwent a double mastectomy in 2012. She is a survivor, an Academy Award winning actor, child of the sixties, director, a soulful woman, Alpha Delta Pi alum, 1969 Theatre graduate from SMU and a national spokesperson for lymphedema and Chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network's Honorary Board.
When Bates speaks about cancer it’s more powerful than her swing in the psychological thriller, Misery. This is the film that brought Bates stardom and an Oscar for Best Actress, and was followed by Fried Green Tomatoes.
When Bates talks about her life on the silver screen, it seems inconsequential when you hear her talk about her life, her family, and her battle with cancer. Her words are from the heart and it was one of the toughest roles of her life.
At first the diagnosis and the illness were a very private and guarded secret. But she learned to send her strength and love to the millions of women who have fought the fight; and she spoke in remembrance of her mom, Bertye Kathleen Bates, who died of breast cancer.
Returning home early from the south of France where she was studying French, Kathy called her doctor because she wasn’t feeling right. Three days later she had surgery then nine chemo treatments.
As she put it, she wasn’t Kathy Bates who one of the patients recognized; she was down to her soul being. Afraid, but she had faith in her doctor who assured her that this wasn’t a death sentence. She went early, they caught it in time.
Earlier she had watched her parents in failing health, and had seen the pain and apprehension they lived with. Kathy was determined to focus on winning this battle one day, one step at a time. She saw strength and compassion in the blue eyes of her surgeon and wondered 'if he was married.'
She wanted to know the color of the tumor - beige - her least favorite color! She always hoped to get the “cute” technician in chemo so she could focus on him and not the needles. She continued to work and was thankful for the makeup people who made her look healthy.
Her dear friend, Lynn Redgrave, had insisted that she get back to work immediately – pretend you’re someone else, not a cancer patient. Acting had always been Kathy’s dream. It brought her stardom and fame, now it brought her the big prize – her life.
She reminisces about her parents and thanks to one of her movies, now better understands what they went through for her. Kathy was an unplanned pregnancy born to a 48 year old mother and a father just ten years shy of retirement. Born in 1948, she now realizes how much of her life her mother gave up just for her.
Her father, supported Kathy and her two sisters in pursuing their dreams, but theatre to him didn’t seem like a stable profession. Wouldn’t they both be proud of their baby girl and all that she has done to help others, countless others, most of whom she will never know.
Praise and awards are nothing new for Kathy Bates. Following starring roles in White Station High School productions, she was off to SMU, then to New York City, where she began to practice her profession. Broadway, television, and small roles led to her legendary portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery in 1990.
An Oscar for Best Actress, as well as, a Golden Globe established her star power. Fried Green Tomatoes the following year; a Tony nomination; Academy nominations for Best Supporting Actress in Primary Colors and About Schmidt; numerous other movie and television roles including The Blind Side, and the portrayal of Molly Brown in Titanic meant Kathy Bates was among the Hollywood elite.
Co-stars include: James Caan, Leonardo DeCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Tandy, Matthew McConaughey, Melanie Griffith, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Kate Winslet among others.
Some of these celebrity friends have been to Kathy’s for a party. Of course, they were treated to a sampling of regional West Tennessee cooking – BBQ, hickory smoked ribs, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw and other goodies overnighted from The Commissary Restaurant in Germantown, TN. This little girl from the Bluff City was in high cotton. She was living her dream.
Following a low time after the treatments, she later attributes the cancer for giving her life back to her. She knows who she is, what matters, and that we are all human beings so why keep secrets that could help others. Diagnosed in 2003 with ovarian cancer, she celebrated six years of remission in 2010.
In September 2012, she revealed via Twitter that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer two months earlier and had undergone a double mastectomy. This left her with lymphedema in both arms.
She has since started campaigning to raise awareness of lymphedema, a condition caused by the removal of lymph nodes during cancer treatment which leads to painful, swollen limbs.
Bates became a national spokesperson for lymphedema and Chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network's Honorary Board. Upwards of ten million Americans suffered with these often debilitating conditions -- more than AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease — combined.
“This is the thing I wish I had known more about and that doctors don’t emphasize,” Bates stated. After they remove your lymph nodes, you’re likely to have lymphedema. That’s the swelling of the arms. It’s something I would like to raise awareness about, because women can feel like that’s an ugly souvenir they’ve been left with.”
“I have to wear compression sleeves on the plane now, go to the doctor at least monthly and do physical therapy. It’s sometimes more difficult to find jackets or shirts that fit. I just need to take it easy. Driving sometimes is difficult, and I love to drive,” she added.
Kathy Bates stays busy and was recently named the Executive Committee Chair of the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors.
So is the best thing she makes dinner reservations, movies, or the difference in the lives of other women who face the battles that she has championed?
If you happen to look in Kathy Bates’ little black book next to caterer, you will see The Commissary (901) 754-5540. She calls to place orders regularly and sometimes just calls to say thank you for another delicious meal. You know – just can’t take that West Tennessee out of the girl, even if she’s living in Hollywood.
Commissaries throughout the South were small country stores where you could find anything from overalls to bologna. The Germantown Commissary had been in business for over ninety years, when Walker Taylor bought it in 1981. The name worked then and still does today.
Over the last twenty five years, The Commissary has been a favorite ‘pit house’ of those with a discriminating palate for barbecue; and was recently named in the 10 top US barbecue restaurants by Playboy Magazine. Their rustic décor is as seasoned and inviting as the aroma of the hickory-smoked, slow-cooked barbecue and ribs that they cook the old-timey way. Add to that homemade deviled eggs, slaw, beans, potato salad, and desserts.
Over the years many have found their way to this mecca of pits including: Robert Duvall, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Jack Nicklaus, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Johnny Cossette – the producer of the Grammy’s, and Jimmy Buffet to name a few.
When it comes to BBQ from The Commissary, as far as she’s concerned, it’s like she said about her co-star Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, “You can't get any better than that!”