A 'rambling' Christmas gift

As Christmas draws closer, I've realized that I've been writing this column for close to 28 years. In that time, we've spun out quite a few stories about this, that and some other things. I hope they've amused you-sometimes made you laugh and sometimes even made you cry. I know they've had that effect on me.

I also hope to continue to keep writing in this space for a while, so don't think that this is goodbye just yet.

I want to take the time now, in the last "Ramblings" before Christmas, to say thank you to all of you who have enjoyed my scribblings, and to pass on as my Christmas gift to you the recipe for a pecan pie that is to die for.

My wife and partner, the Lady Marjorie, has standing in the kitchen a bookcase that is four shelves deep. This bookcase is filled with cookbooks authored by some of the most acclaimed chefs in the country. The Lady Marjorie is no slouch herself when it comes to demonstrating her gastronomic skills in the kitchen.

"If the house ever catches fire," she told me sternly one day early in our marriage, "there is one thing I want you to rescue." It was a hint at her priorities. "On your way out," she said, "grab this cookbook."

She handed me a thin, paperbound volume that looked almost like a magazine giveaway pamphlet. The book was titled, simply, "Southern Cook Book: 250 Fine Old Recipes." On the cover was a picture of a thick slice of country ham on a platter with four baked yams arranged neatly beside it. Next to the platter was a cutting board holding an array of just-sliced squares of cornbread.

The back cover of the 64-page instructional guide revealed that it was printed by the Culinary Arts Press Inc. in Reading, Pa., and that they also printed another 60 available cooking guides. In addition to those, they also printed 22 Good Housekeeping cookbooks.

She had found the book in a small shop in Charleston, S.C., in 1976, while on vacation with her parents. The book cost a total of $1.75. "Every recipe that I've tried from out of that book has turned out well," she said.

To the enthusiastic person who cooks, the South is a succession of areas, each of which has its cherished traditional and celebrated ways of preparing its favorite foods. Southern food achieves a noteworthy blend of richness, fragrance and flavor.

The thin volume contains recipes ranging from such traditionally thought-of southern dishes as hush puppies, baked hominy and Hopping John (a traditional Carolina New Year's Day good-luck dish of black-eyed peas and rice) to the British-inspired standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding. There are five different varieties of gumbo listed and 12 separate ways to prepare chicken-not to mention a rich seafood section that even includes a recipe for frog legs.

But enough of this rambling-let's get right to the aforementioned pecan pie recipe.

Pecan Pie


Pastry for a 1-crust, 9-inch pie (can be pre-made such as Pillsbury)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) chopped pecans

1cup dark corn syrup

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) pecan halves

Prepare pastry and line pie pan, set aside.

Cream butter with vanilla; gradually add sugar, creaming well after each addition. Add eggs in thirds, blending well after each addition; thoroughly blend in chopped pecans along with syrup and salt. Turn into pastry shell.

Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit; reduce heat to 350 degrees. Arrange pecan halves over top of filling. Continue baking 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Cool on rack.

It's a Christmas gift that will take some work from you to enjoy, but believe me, enjoy it you will. Merry Christmas from "Ramblings" (and the Lady Marjorie)-may there be peace in all of your lives.[[In-content Ad]]