Remembering Tropical Pie

Image from Etsy
Image from Etsy

“Sometimes you have to travel back in time, skirting the obstacles, in order to love someone.”
~ Frances Mayes, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir


When I was a kid, growing up in the seventies, there was this pie Mum used to make.

‘Tropical Pie’ it was called, if memory serves me correctly.

I loved that pie.

Mum only ever made it in summer, if we had friends coming over for a party or a barbeque, or if we were invited somewhere and she offered to bring a dessert.

Mum was a great cook, and we looked forward to birthdays, events and parties when she would always make something that was a little bit special.

Family, neighbours and my mum, clustered around my little brother’s birthday cake in the backyard of my childhood home. That’s me with the blonde hair standing beside Mum, my sister Simone is sitting on the left with her hair in two pigtails, and Matthew is cutting his cake!


By the eighties my parents had split up, and we didn’t go to parties or barbeques anymore. Mum stopped making that pie.

By the time I was brave enough to remind her about it, Mum had lost the recipe.

I spent years searching for it amid the kitchen drawers, the old exercise books with the hand-written recipes and pages torn from women’s magazines. But it was no good. I never found that recipe again.

That recipe came to represent the essence of my childhood – a time when I still felt happy, loved and safe. I found myself yearning for Tropical Pie, and the ability to make it for myself. Last year in a pique of nostalgia I trawled the internet looking for it.


And then, yesterday, as I was sorting through a bag stuffed with recipe clippings and old cookbooks that once belonged to my grandmother I found it!

It was so unexpected that I burst into tears. Silly, I know, but at that precise moment I felt Marga looking down on me, wisely and kindly guiding me as she had always done in life.

I’ve gone and bought the few ingredients I did not have in the house, and I shall share the recipe with you tomorrow.

Who knows how it shall really taste? How can anything ever live up to those rose-tinted memories of old?

Still, I shall bake my Tropical Pie, and eat it with my husband, and feel with every bite that my world has come full circle.

My maternal grandmother, Marga, and me - back in the   late eighties.
My maternal grandmother, Marga, and me – back in the late eighties. Marga taught me almost everything I know about cooking, being gracious and being kind.

Is there any food that takes you right back to happy memories of your childhood? Do you ever make or buy it for yourself or your family now that you’ve grown? Or is there a food your children or grandchildren have come to request and think of as special?  I’d love to hear your stories either here in the comments, or over on my facebook page.

Hi! I'm Nicole Cody. I am a writer, psychic, metaphysical teacher and organic farmer. I love to read, cook, walk on the beach, dance in the rain and grow things. Sometimes, to entertain my cows, I dance in my gumboots. Gumboot dancing is very under-rated.
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36 thoughts on “Remembering Tropical Pie

  1. My Dad was the cook in our house .He didn’t cook all of the time but he had his specialties .
    Jacket potatoes , crisp and oozing with cheese and butter.
    Battered chips …hot crunchy and moreish .
    Bread pudding ( I grew up in the industrial’ Black Country’ in the West Midlands U.K ) cheap pud for hungry kids .

    1. Battered chips, Cherry? Wow.

      And bread pudding? That kind of fare was what my paternal Nana would make for us. Now I make huge pans of it here at the farm each winter to feed the hungry workers. Real comfort food!

  2. Marshmallow. My dad used to make pink marshmallow. I loved it… was always nice and chewy and didn’t last long. He also used to make custard with a thick skin on top……I loved to get the skin. My earliest memory was about 3 or 4 years old sitting in the corner scraping the burnt custard from the pot while everyone else was at the table having desert. Custard is still my favourite desert but I am dairy free now so I really miss it.

    1. Real custard, with eggs and milk? Marga was the Queen of Homemade Custard. My grandfather and I used to sneak into the kitchen and eat the skin before dinner was ready. We’d always get into trouble, but it was always worth it. Nothing tastes like home-made custard. Thanks for sharing such happy memories of your dad. Big hugs to you, Sharon. Nicole xx

  3. Every summer my mom would make delicious strawberry jam that always had lots of fluffy foam on the top. On jam days, she would also make fresh white bread using my grandmother’s recipe, so when the foam (I mean jam!!) was ready we could spread it on fresh baked bread. Heavenly. I can still smell it. 🙂

  4. Cockles St Jacques. My father would make it for family birthday dinner celebrations. Another very 70’s dish, it is scallops cooked in a very garlicky, white wine, mornay sauce. Very rich, and very delicious. My parents even had special little individual, brown ceramic bowls to cook the dish in.

  5. My nana cooked roast lamb, roast spuds and roast pumpkin with minted green peas every Sunday. She was a good cook and enjoyed swapping recipes with her New Australian friends (as they were called back in the day) but her baked dinners are my favourite meal from childhood. My husband is not Australian so I introduced it to him and it became one of his favourites also back in the mid-seventies. Trends changed and our children were presented with the roast on special occasions and even now if we are getting together to celebrate something significant in the family, they will often ask for roast lamb and lots of potatoes.
    Loved seeing your family pics Nicole, esp your lovely grandmother.
    You were meant to find that recipe yesterday for a reason, any earlier and it would not have been the right timing. Enjoy, and I look forward to seeing the recipe. xox

    1. I think I was meant to find it yesterday too, Michelle. It wouldn’t have had that same deep significance if it had been found sooner, or from another source. Bless my little sister for passing that crammed old shopping bag of paper on to me!
      BTW, we’re big fans of the lamb roast in this household too. It’s almost always our celebration meal. And leftovers as roast lamb sandwiches with good chutney? Bonus – I love that.

  6. Every time I make something my mother made I always think of her. Yesterday it was a chocolate, cinnamon tea cake I made for my brother-in-law’s birthday. We all loved it and I thanked mum wherever she was. We used to make that cake together all the time when I was a girl. We made it many times when we had guests coming or for an occasion. She would have me grind the cinnamon quills. It is the one thing I always think of with my mum as I lost her all too soon when she was taken away by early onset alzeihmers. She was a marvellous cook. I have learned by heart all the Sicilian dishes that she taught me. I guess essentially I was her sous chef and I’m ever so grateful that I have this gift from her. She was gone to us by the time I was 21.

    I can really relate when you talk about your family and cooking. It is so evocative and filled with memories. Always brings me to tears too.

    1. Oh Kareena! I’m so sorry that your mum was taken too soon, but I’m also grateful that she lives on in your recipes and memories. Food is so special to me like that. I’m glad it is for you too.
      Big hugs and love,
      Nicole xx

  7. Funny how you chose Tropical Pie as mine was Pineapple pie my nan used to make, which I commented on yesterday. I just looked the recipe up and it’s very simple. Pastry base, 1 can crushed pineapple, 2 tblspns custard powder with a bit of sugar (not sure if it’s needed though) combine with pineapple till cooked and thickened and then place on pastry. Lattice style pastry strips strips over the top and sprinkle with coconut.

    The photo with your nan did bring tears to my eyes. Bless xxxx

  8. My nana made ginger biscuits which were yummy!!! I could eat them all easily especially when straight out of the oven. Made with dripping, they were soft on the inside and had a sort of crunch on the outside. Funnily enough I got the receipe off my mum when I was down for Xmas.

    1. Reading that reminds me of being a small Australian child, reading about fried chicken – the kind that American Moms would make – and trying so hard to imagine how that might look, taste and smell. Australian mothers were called Mum and would make sandwiches for a picnic, or maybe take a cold roast chook (chicken) or cook a barbeque. Goodness, we were barbeque mad in the seventies!

  9. There is one silly dinner I always looked forward to. Every halloween night my mom would make pigs in a blanket …hot dogs wrapped in a biscuit and baked served with mustard and refried beans topped with cheese and shreaded head lettuce,,,simple and such a “kid meal” it bring back all the excitement of the evening . When we got home from trick or treat she would rifle through our bags looking for her favorite black licorice. Fond memories…can’t wait to try the pie..She also would make a great apple pie and homemade bread but we all ate it so fast she quit making it…said it was too much work to have it disappear so quickly…now I have taken up the torch and continue to make the bread and pies which do disappear fast but I love making .

    1. I love the sound of those pigs in a blanket!

      I also think it’s a great compliment when things we’ve labored over get devoured with such gusto. Good to hear you’ve picked up that torch, and I hope you get to pass it to someone else in your family too.

      Much love, Nicole xx

    1. I wonder if you could tweak it so that the dumplings were dairy and gluten free, and you used a lovely coconut based ice-cream? I might have to set that for myself as a challenge once the weather cools down a tad. It’s so not dumpling weather in Australia just now. 🙂

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