KEY WEST, Fla. — Culinary experts in the Florida Keys are irate about a cookbook author’s claim that Key lime pie was not invented in the island chain.
Stella Parks, author of “BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts,” wrote that the Borden milk company invented the recipe to sell more sweetened condensed milk, a prime ingredient in Key lime pie. She stated that the first recipe was conceived in a New York City test kitchen in 1931.
But experts in Key West say Key lime pie was a staple dessert in the Keys before that. They point to articles and ads in a 1926 edition of the “Key West Citizen.”
David Sloan, author of “The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook,” says his research proves that Key lime pie existed before 1931.
Sloan said the Keys signature dessert was perfected in Key West in the late 1800s by a woman named Aunt Sally, the cook for millionaire William Curry, who built his home in Key West in 1869.
“The people of the Keys believe the first Key lime pie was invented by sponge fishermen who went out in their rafts for several days and took supplies,” Sloan said. “We think that they took stale Cuban bread and moistened it up with sweetened condensed milk and then took wild bird eggs, squeezed some lime over it, let it sit in the sun and there you had the first Key lime pie.”
Sloan added that he is incensed that Parks has challenged the Keys’ claim to Key lime pie.
“Someone is trying to take away the Florida Keys’ culture and I am not going to stand for it!” he said.
Sloan is a primary organizer for the annual summer Key Lime Festival that features a July 4 Key lime pie eating contest. He and others have also crafted eight-foot-in-diameter Key lime pies at major events.
In 2006, Florida’s legislature voted Key lime pie as the state’s official dessert. The celebration was staged in Key West.