“They say the South is full of storytellers, but I am unconvinced. It seems more accurate to say that it is full of people who are very, very tired. At least this was my childhood experience in Mississippi, where there was very little to do but shoot things or get them pregnant. After a full day of killing and fornicating, it was only natural that everyone grew weary.”
Today's post is special for two reasons: 1) I personally know the author of the book and 2) I’m gonna give him a cupcake! But let’s start from the beginning.
“The World’s Largest Man” by Harrison Scott Key (no relation to Francis—probably) is a funny, yet touching memoir about a man and his dad. Harrison grew up in Mississippi among “pious Bible-reading women and men who either shot things or got women pregnant.” And his dad, who he refers to as Pop, represented both categories of men.
Pop hunted. Pop fought. Pop coached (and cheated in) football. The book refers to Harrison's father as being "Bunyan-esque," and "a man better suited to living in a remote frontier wilderness of the nineteenth century than contemporary America, with all its progressive ideas and paved roads and lack of armed duels.”
And growing up, Harrison couldn't have been less like him. Harrison read books. Harrison went grocery shopping with his mom. Harrison cried the first time he killed something in the woods. Soon he stopped trying to be anything like his dad and instead decided to become everything his father was not—a Presbyterian, a doctor of philosophy, and a teacher! Which brings us to how I know him. I took his humor writing class while in grad school and then went on to intern for him, helping him prepare for his book tour—for this very book!
The book follows Harrison through college and then to adulthood, marriage and starting his own family, at what point he starts to view his dad in a new light. I won’t spoil any details, but the book reaches very touching moments when Harrison realizes he and his dad might not be so different after all.
“The World’s Largest Man” is hilarious in its portrayal of the south and the people who live there, of an absurd father/son relationship and of what it means to be a man. But it’ll also trigger all the mushy feelings about your own dad, your childhood and the first time a girl on the bus told you she liked your butt. (That doesn’t happen to everyone…? Huh.)
I feel a little bad about hooking on to the southern parts of this book for baking inspiration, because Harrison once told me he wasn’t sure how he felt about people calling it a “southern book.” But let’s be honest—southern traditions make for good cooking. So in honor of Harrison’s Mississippi roots, I made Mississippi Mud Pie Cupcakes! (And a mess.)
Mississippi mud pie is a chocolate-based dessert pie with gooey chocolate sauce and usually on top of a crumbly chocolate crust. So all of that needed to be incorporated into the cupcake. There's a lot going on with these cupcakes and the last few steps require you to top warm cupcakes with warm frosting, so believe me when I say there's going to be chocolate everywhere. But it's all so worth it! Out of the oven, the cupcakes were super dense on their own, (the cupcake tray was seriously heavy), but then they get topped with marsh mellows, frosting, and pecans. No fluffy delicate desserts here. This is a man's cupcake.
The World's Largest Man: 5 stars
Mississippi Mud Pie Cupcakes: 5 stars
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10.5-oz.) bag miniature marshmallows
1. Bake pecans (arranged in a single layer) at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.
2. Melt 1 cup butter and semisweet chocolate in a large bowl.
3. Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa, eggs, vanilla extract and salt into your chocolate mixture.
4. Fill baking cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until puffy.
5. Remove cupcakes from the oven, sprinkle the tops with miniature marshmallows, and bake 5 more minutes or until the marshmallows are golden.
6. Remove cupcakes from the oven for the second time and leave them to cool in muffin pan for about 5 minutes, before drizzling with chocolate frosting and sprinkling the tops with pecans.
"The South is a strange place, one that can't be fit inside a movie, a place that dares you to simplify it, like a prime number, like a Bible story, like my father."
“My wife was a riddle. I think all women are. Men are not riddles, even the smart ones. We are independent clauses, such as: “I like meat.” “Water feel good.”
“Was I the only one who became unsettled and swoonish at the sight of a large, inverted carcass hanging from a tree, its vital organs strewn about like children's toys, the occasional pack of hunting dogs fighting over a lung, another one looking for a quiet place to enjoy the severed head?”
“This was my responsibility, as a man, to endanger the people I love in the service of knowledge that seems important at the time.”
“Pop was a devoted father, a large and powerful man who showered us with guns and love. He did not drink, or hit our mother; his only luxury the occasional heart attack.”
I plan to give Harrison a cupcake or two soon, so I'll update you and left you know how he liked them!
Happy Baking, everybody! -Ariel