Dolly Parton’s Tennessee house is five minutes from mine. There are tour buses parked out front most days. My son always thought she was sending his Imagination Library books directly from her house to him. Knowing her altruism, he may not have been wrong. I didn’t correct him as he yelled, “Thank you for the books!” out the window when we drove past her house. It was a sad day after he turned six and the books stopped coming. Fortunately, it replaced by a new book reward: his own Pizza Hut personal pan pizza gift certificates. Frank Carney is no Dolly Parton, but it did soften the loss a bit.
Dolly is now gifting again to adults and kids. When Jeni’s Ice Cream announced they were partnering with Dolly to create an ice cream, there was debate if it would be banana- or Moderna-flavored. Turns out the Dolly flavor is a quintessential Southern potluck favorite: Strawberry Pretzel Pie. Try saying that without smiling or wondering how in the heck Strawberry + Pretzel + Pie + Ice Cream works. Southerners know. Grandmas know the secret to fruit and salty sticks and pie melding together. It works in the same way Dolly tied up her boss while singing, created a theme park named after herself, wrote “I Will Always Love You” AND “Jolene” in an afternoon, or wore a cold-shoulder shirt to get her million-dollar vaccine shot.
Strawberry Pretzel Pie is as big-flavored and big-hearted as Dolly herself, sweet and salty and sassy and Southern with “lipstick red strawberry sauce.” I have been hankering (Southern word for wanting something really bad/precursor to being hangry) for my grandma’s strawberry pretzel pie, and crushing Rold Gold pretzels in a bag as a topping for cut-up strawberries just doesn’t cut it. Or taste that good. Or serve as dessert for my kids (gag, Mom). Jeni and Dolly Parton’s Strawberry Pretzel Pie arrives right on time. It doesn’t have to be eaten 9-5, but I can eat it from 9-5 and 5-9 because I can order it online and have it delivered to my porch in dry ice in all its pink-Parton prettiness.
It’s a little bit country — alright, a lot country — layers of salty pretzel streusel, tangy cream ice cream, and a red strawberry sauce that makes you want to smack your mama, but NOT Dolly. No one smacks Dolly. On the first cold bite of summer sweetness, I thought I might burst out into song but instead just kept eating it, thinking, “I will always love this” in my mind. A little bit blush and not at all bashful, it’s a favorite of Jolene and Jolene’s arch-enemy, Truvy, and maybe even Ouiser. When I closed my eyes, I was back in a church basement spooning cream corn and strawberry pretzel casserole onto my paper plate.
Dolly recently turned down the state of Tennessee’s offer to add a bust (the joke is built-in) of her at the Capitol before she was dead, plus she didn’t even ask Moderna to rename the vaccine after her. It feels fitting that she didn’t turn down Miss Jeni when she came calling with dairy and strawberry and pretzel pieces. While tourists and locals alike will add this Jeni/Dolly Parton partnership ice cream duet to their scoop shop visits, in true Dolly form, she took it one step and many books forward: sales of the flavor benefit the Imagination Library that sent books to my kids until they turned five. And she’s been doing that a long time.
I’m ordering pints of Strawberry Pretzel Pie to send to my Imagination Library-loving son at college. When he got his vaccines, I always offered up ice cream as a reward. I know what I’ll be getting after my second shot, a big ol’ scoop of Strawberry Pretzel Pie.