Pecan Pie was one of my Mémère’s all-time favorite holiday desserts.
– ¾ stick unsalted butter
– 1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
– ½ cup light corn syrup
– ¼ cup molasses
– 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
– ¼ tsp salt
– 3 eggs
– 2 cups pecan halves
Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl until combined. Roll out prepared pastry dough and place it in a greased pie pan. Pour the pecan mixture into the dish over the pastry, bake for 1 hour or until the mixture is slightly bubbling and the crust edges are golden-brown.
Mémère had an uncomplicated taste, and her recipe was just that. To this day, it is one of the only ones I can conjure up from memory alone.
Mémère is a French term meaning grandmother. It is a term of love and respect that grandchildren use to address one of the most special and important women in their lives. The words special and important are an understatement in regard to the thousands of adjectives that could have been used to describe my Mémère. She was the matriarch of my entire extended family; the strongest, most stubborn and endearing, and the most passionate woman I will ever have the privilege of knowing. I consider myself lucky because not everyone came around enough to be offered a glimpse of that side of her. Regardless, she loved her children and grandchildren so fiercely, and with her entire self. Family held the utmost importance to Mémère; she was our rock, the only glue that held her beloved and fragile family together.
Many in the family were all too busy to make time for her. All she ever wanted was a visit and a hug; I bet she’d have been happy with even just a phone call from those she hardly ever got to see. Mémère was not the type of woman to want or ask for anything. There was however, one annual event that brought all of us together under her roof- Mémère’s Christmas party. Even then though, it was obvious that many of us weren’t there for each other, but only to ensure a few hours of joy and contentment for our grandmother.
It was on this day, year after year I would quietly notice the sparkle return to her eyes and listen to the pride and love that clung to her every word- my heart full and breaking for her all at the same time.
For her Christmas party, her only request was that each of her granddaughters prepare a dessert to bring. Every year, I chose to make Mémère’s favorite, Pecan Pie. I remember when I was a young girl, helping her to make one and to this day I can still feel her gentle pat on the back and the echo of her words, “I don’t believe I could have done better myself!” It was then that my love for baking was born. Although I was only a child, and in reality, had simply assisted in the pie’s creation, my grandmother still made sure that I felt like the winning contestant on a baking show.
I never really did care for Pecan Pie, although I never told Mémère that. It just happened to be one of the things that would forever cement our bond. We’d sit down together, both with a slice of that pie, and like clockwork I’d watch her face light up with the first bite and wait in anticipation for her to say, “This one might be better than last year’s.” She’d ask me if I’d done anything different with the recipe; I never did and I never will. That Pecan Pie recipe is etched on my heart.
I’d always make another one just a couple of weeks later for when Mémère stayed over my family’s house on Christmas Eve. Time after time, she would ignore my mother’s pleas to sit down and have a rest as she circled the kitchen offering up decades of cooking experience and advice. Later we’d all sit in the living room, opening the presents from under the tree. Each year toward the end, Mémère would tear up and tell us we’d done too much and been too kind to her. In unison and in so many words, we’d remind her that we thought there wasn’t enough kindness in the world for her, and that she deserved to relish in her spoils.
After spending so many happy Christmases with Mémère, it’s difficult to say whether or not all of my remaining holiday season’s will be quite as merry and bright. What I do know for sure, is that I’d give anything to hear her say just one more time, “Oh good, I was hoping you’d bring the Pecan Pie!”
We’ve had a couple Christmases without Mémère now, but I still bake the pie. From scratch, from memory, using only my grandmother’s recipe. Even if I only take a single bite, she must know somehow that I still bring her favorite holiday dessert to the table. I have plenty more Mémère recipes up my sleeve, but this is the only one that keeps me truly connected to her. I plan on sharing the recipe with my future children and grandchildren, and the legacy that is my Mémère. If I can make them feel half as loved and special, with something to connect and bond over as uncomplicated as a pie, I’ll rest easy knowing that I have made Mémère proud.