Pecan Pie and Memories

by John C. Westervelt

Soon after eight oíclock on a Sunday morning in late March, I could see that the Asbury courtyard was lined with tables filled with pies and cakes for a United Methodist Women bake sale. Every five months I host evening bridge at my house, and it was to be my turn on the first Friday of April. For twelve years my guests have eaten cherry and apple pies from Tippin's. On this Sunday morning, I enlisted the aid of my Joy class friend, Mary Pearson, to help me choose a cherry and a pecan pie from the UMW tables. After bridge I cut the leftover pecan pie in small slivers, wrapped it in double plastic, and put it in the freezer.

A week later on a Sunday night, I heated a cup of water and a piece of pecan pie. The sun had set, but the day was still bright. The crisp, still air on my front porch made the hood of my jacket feel good over my ears. The moment the flavor of the pecan pie reached my taste buds, memories filled my mind.

When I was a boy, my family sat around the dining room table covered with newspapers with cracked pecans piled in the middle. Pieces that small fingers had difficulty getting out of the shell were loosened with a metal pick. Mother then made a pecan pie using the same recipe that her mother had used.

Another memory, almost forgotten, flooded my mind. I was a young engineer in Tulsa with children ages one and three. My company sent me to Sprague Electric in North Adams, Massachusetts for some screen room testing of electronic equipment my group had designed for Boeingís Minuteman missile. (In 1959 the United States and Russia were in the midst of a race to develop intercontinental missiles.)

The testing revealed that changes were needed to comply with the electromagnetic interference requirements of Minuteman. I called for a dozen technicians in Tulsa to join me in North Adams to make the necessary modifications. What was to have been a one-week stay lasted a month. With the onset of fall, Nelda had to get a friend to light the furnace to keep the children warm. Those were days when the job schedule held a higher priority than family.

And now to the pecan pie. My crew and I stayed in an ancient two-story hotel in North Adams. Secured next to the second story window in my room was a knotted rope for use in case of a fire. With not much selection at the local restaurants, the group chose a Howard Johnsonís west on the highway towards Williamstown. The first night, I ordered pecan pie for desert. I had the same pie the next evening. We were working twelve-hour, days seven days a week, so our routine remained the same. Back at Howard Johnsonís each evening I ate pecan pie to ease the lonesome feeling resulting from separation from my wife and children. Over the next forty years I didnít eat pecan pie very often. Either I had had my fill or my choice shifted to apple with an aging stomach.

Whoever baked this delicious dessert, I want to thank you for the pie that tasted much like my motherís pecan pie from the 1930s. You raised seven dollars for missions and gave me a $700 trip down memory lane.

Return to Table of Contents