Sharing Food and Memories with Friends and Family

October 30, 2011
Irene Saiger


Pecan Pie

It is almost November and that means Thanksgiving is around the corner.  My favorite holiday for many reasons: the concept of religious freedom, the story of immigrants arriving in a new land, the traditional American foods that we eat, plus the opportunity to reflect on what we are thankful for.  When my children were small we read Molly’s Pilgrim, a book about a young Russian girl’s experiences in her new school.  The story reminded me of my experience in Kindergarten when my teacher related that we are all descendents of Pilgrims.  I can still remember raising my hand and sharing that my parents were not Pilgrims, they were Polish.

We have hosted Thanksgiving dinners for the past thirty-one years.  Over the years, I have been away for one or two, but I hold on to Thanksgiving tightly because it means so much to me.  As an adult, Thanksgiving makes me think of Emma Lazarus’ poem, knowing that my mother and father arrived in this country on a ship, with their five-year old daughter,  Anie. My sister’s name was soon changed to Anita, something “more” American.  This year our table will be filled with people whose names are German, Russian, English and Polish in origin.  How wonderfully American is that.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus, 1883

Pecan Pie

This recipe was printed in the New York Times many years ago.  It is the only one I use and has never failed me.

1-10″ baked pie shell

1 1/4  cups dark corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

4 eggs

1/2 stick butter or pareve margarine, melted

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecan halves.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Partially bake your pie shell.  Remove and allow to cool.  Combine the corn syrup and sugar in a heavy pan.  Bring to a boil and stir till sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Mix in cooled syrup, melted butter, chopped pecans and vanilla.  Pour into pie shell.  Decorate the top of pie with pecan halves.  Bake for about 50 minutes.  Cover crust with foil to prevent from over-browning.   Serves 10

Happy Thanksgiving!



14 thoughts on “Pecan Pie

  1. Any fail-free recipe is a friend of mine! I’ve never made a pecan pie…

  2. your stories are beautiful as always, the pie looks amazing, all the best

  3. From the editorial page of The New York Times dated Saturday, October 29, 2011.

    This is such a wonderful story and exactly what you were talking about in your wonderful blog.

    America, Renewed

    On Friday, a brillian morning sun piercing their eyes, 125 Americans-to-be got ready to take the citizenship oath on Liberty Island( in New York City).

    Officials were collecting Form N-445’s and passing out little flags. Television crews were taking video for the morning shows while an organizer of the event coached the group to cheer like a studio audience. But none of the bustle and distraction – part of a day of celebration for the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday – could dim the power of the ceremony.

    They were from 46 countries. Some were poor, some frail and old, a good sampling of the New York City area. (There were lots of Dominicans.) Though overshadowed by the statue, they were the real deal, not the symbol. They raised their right hands and plowed through the long, stilted oath. “I will perfom work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law……” They got to the end (“So help me God”), and at the moment, Amercia was as new as Friday morning.

    A speaker, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, ennobled the event by going off script. He urged the citizens to engage in civic life, to push for immigration reform so the undocumented will “not live in the shadows of fear, bu come into the sunlight.” He did not mention the elected officials, Republicans mostly, who have urged punishment without mercy on those who violate laws that they refuse to reform.

    Soon these citizens may take up that struggle, but, on Friday, they had other things to do. Tiberiu Gireada, 22, from Romania, had to go back to Hunter College. Saidou Zakou, 34, from Niger, had told his boss at a Bronx clothing store that he had something to do in the morning but would be back at work after.

    A nurse from Manhattan, Young Sun Kim, kept her 10-month-old twin daughters, Julia and Rachel, plied with bottles and sliced bananas. When she and her husband, Seong Il Song, went up for their certificates and the four became an American family, the girls were sound asleep in their fuzzy mouse-ear suits, American flags on their laps. Someone tried to start the “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” chant, but it didn’t catch on. This was a gentler victory.

  4. Good morning, Irene.

    Thank you for the star treatment. It is very sweet. We came to America in September of 1952 on the SS Argentina that departed from Genoa. I just remember mommy not feeling well and never leaving her bed in the upper berth. She only ate food from the kosher kitchen which must have been pretty awfull. She was terribly seasick. I, on the other hand, ran up and down the ship and played, never understanding where we were going or that no one would speak the same language we did when we landed. Daddy made some friends on the ship and took me with him to eat in the dining room. I have fond memories of the two weeks at sea but the first few years in America were not easy for us.

    When I lived in LA I loved coming to your house with our parents to celebrate Thanksgiving. We made mommy’s sweet potatoes and bread pudding. The turkey was always delicious and so was the fresh cranberry relish you made. The whole house smelled (in a good sense) of mulling spices that you used in the apple cider that was cooking on the stove. The table was beautiful with a horn of plenty and fall flowers as well as gourds and little pumpkins. Definitely a Martha Stewart moment. I have fond memories of all those Thanksgivings. My mother and my father and I thank you.

    Love, Anita

    • Thank you Anita. I am sure it was hard but I am sure everyone was charmed by your sunny personality, curly hair and French accent!

      Sad to say our table gets a little smaller each year but I still love having it!!


  5. Irene this looks delicious, can I make a request that you make it when we come for dinner and not only on Thanksgiving, pretty please?

  6. Beautiful column! And a consolation note about being Polish–Pilgrims and Polish both start with a “P” and so does pecan!
    And maybe I will be brave enough to try making a failsafe pecan pie this year!

  7. Wonderful post – my favorite holiday too. Am busy working on a menu and figuring out how to fit the 15th person around our table for 14 :-). I’ve never made a pecan pie – just might try it this year! Hope all is well Irene.

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