Enjoy these Front Porch Moments from Bill and share your favorites with your family and friends. He'd love to meet you at Front Porch ice cream events. Oh, and by the way, his favorite flavor is Nana’s Banana Pudding.
Pecans at Grandma’s
My Grandmother Thompson had a pecan tree in her back yard. It covered most of the backyard that was left after the barn, garden and (tobacco) pack house used their space. It was the ideal place to rest during the hot summer afternoons after working in the fields. But I remember it not so much for the respite it gave from labor but for the yield of pecans it furnished every fall.
In those pre-television days, almost every family would gather at “Mama’s” on Sunday afternoons. The adults would sit on the porch and talk about the crops, some politics and the status of other people (sometimes called gossip). The children would play uncomplicated games like Red Rover, Kick the Can, and Tag.
But in the late fall we would forego the games for the semi-serious task of picking up the pecans that had fallen from that big tree. Grandma had told us that if we picked up the pecans, she would make us a pecan pie. What an incentive! Grandma’s pecan pie was not only a family favorite but was a favorite part of every church gathering where food was served.
For many years I was the only grandson. My girl cousins thought picking up pecans was a competitive activity. I didn’t. I figured there was no need to rush to pick up the nuts; they weren’t going anywhere and I thought that the best way to enjoy the pecans was to eat them fresh from the ground on which they had fallen. So while they were crawling around furiously filling the galvanized buckets, I casually put some of my harvest in a bucket but took the opportunity to enjoy the taste of the nuts as I went along.
The process of eating pecans is sometimes a real task for a small boy. If his hand is only a little bigger than two pecans, it’s hard to crack the shell by pressing the shells together. Using a hammer or, in my case, a rock results in a very fragmented nut. So I would put the pecan in my mouth and crack the shell with my teeth. I didn’t worry about the fact that I might break a tooth or that the dirt that had accumulated on the shell might be detrimental to my health. My goal was to eat the pecan meat in as close to a whole piece as I could get.
My cousins would berate me for not participating in the pecan harvest with an enthusiasm to match theirs. I ignored them and continued my leisurely effort until enough pecans had been picked up to warrant what we considered a sufficient amount to make a pie. At that point we presented our gathering to Grandma. We had all poured our harvest into a large wooden basket which Grandma had placed on the back porch. I had quickly poured my comparatively small accumulation into the basket so that there was no way to tell who had picked up the most pecans. All for one and one for all as far as I was concerned.
The promised pecan pie was made available to us on the next Sunday visit. I still love pecan pie. It’s a Southern staple that I’ve eaten on hundreds of occasions from church homecomings to family reunions and even some really fancy dinner parties. But those pies made from the pecans we picked up in Grandma’s backyard are still the best I ever tasted.
Praline Coastal Crunch and Homestyle Butter Pecan ice cream make me think of Grandma’s pecan pie.
About Bill Thompson
For over 40 years, Bill Thompson has traveled the Carolinas delighting folks with his commentary on Southern staples: food, farming, music, family and neighbors. He's been the master of ceremonies for hundreds of events celebrating the things that make the South special - from the Hollering Contest in Spivey's Corner to the Wolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, the Grits Festival in South Carolina, and he's even judged a sweet tea contest in Georgia. In the process, he's had the chance to meet some fine Southerners and hear their own stories. He's authored three books, one named, "Sweet Tea, Fried Chicken and Lazy Dogs: A Reflection of North Carolina Life."