I woke up feeling nostalgic and craving my mom’s legendary pecan pie.
I had a dream that I walked in the front door of my mom’s house, immediately taking in the smell of sweet caramel and toasted pecans. I knew that meant she was baking my favorite dessert.
Ah, truly the stuff dreams are made of.
No one had been able to duplicate her recipe until my son-in-law attempted it for a Thanksgiving dinner.
The house was filled with familiar aromas. The sight and taste of that triangle of perfect ooey gooey filling and sugary, crunchy pecans sitting on top of a buttery, flakey, golden crust made my mouth—and my eyes—water with happiness. It was pecan pie perfection.
Now my grandsons will be able to experience the gift of their great-grandmother’s famous pie, even though they never will have the gift of knowing her.
My son-in-law has since gone on to open his own successful pie company. I asked him where he got his mad baking skills.
His favorite pie growing up was his grandmother’s chocolate pie. She shared her recipe with him and taught him how to make it, using the most important ingredient—love. His family and his customers are grateful she shared that lesson with him.
I grew up in a large, old fashioned southern family that came together for Sunday dinners, birthdays, and holidays. These gatherings centered around good food created with care.
Many memories were made at a table filled with my Mamie’s (southern speak for grandmother) chicken and dumplings and banana nut bread, my mom’s homemade, from scratch spaghetti sauce (and her aforementioned pie), and my aunt’s black-eyed peas, mustard greens, and cornbread.
Sadly, most of those recipes were lost, buried with the loved ones who created those dishes.
There have been so many occasions when I wished I had taken the time to stand next to each of them in their kitchens. I wish I would have made the effort to watch and learn as they put a pinch of this and a dash of that into a bowl or pan. They would have gladly shared the knowledge of how to create these dishes from my childhood.
I would love to be able to pass those family favorites down to my own family.
My regrets can hopefully create an opportunity, though.
What can I do now to ensure those I leave behind have a little something of me to hold in their hearts and share with their future families?
I am not much of a cook, but I can encourage my son-in-law to teach his children how to make their ancestors’ chocolate and pecan pies.
I can read with my little ones and instill in them their grandmother’s passion for books.
I can record on paper our family stories through my love of words.
And a lightbulb moment…I could gather us all in the kitchen and we could work together to recreate one of those lost recipes.
In the worst-case scenario, we would have a delicious dish to try. In the best-case scenario, we will have created a lifelong memory of time spent with each other. They can tell the story to their children and grandchildren about the time we all tried to recreate great-grandma’s pecan pie and banana nut bread. And while it wasn’t exactly the same as I remembered, it was perfect because it was made with love.
Here’s my mom’s pecan pie recipe—as best I can remember:
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked or frozen deep-dish pie crust
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, combine corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour the filling into a pie crust.
Bake on the center rack of the oven until the center reaches 200°F and springs back when tapped lightly, about 55 to 70 minutes.
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