I love pecans...
They are probably my favorite nut. They are meaty and fruity at the same time, complex in flavor. The shape is beautiful, those two butterfly halves that form a whole. They feel more special than peanuts or cashews or almonds or walnuts. Not so "been there, done that."
When we were small and growing up on the farm in Malbis, Alabama, we had pecan trees growing on our property. After a few seasons of picking them and using them in as many recipes as we could conjure; or letting them rot because there were too many to pick and not enough time, we discovered we could pick them and take them into town to sell. Exciting!
Mama would give us each a brown bag, labeled with our name, and we would traipse outside to let the picking begin. Then she would drive our bags into town and have them weighed. Each girl would get whatever monies was paid for the pounds picked in her labeled bag. It was thrilling, the anticipation of that little bit of spending money! And all from the bounty right outside our door.
There were many foods for free around the farm. Eggs from the chickens. The chickens themselves. (Sorry, my vegetarian and animal rights activists readers!) Soy beans from the field of pods behind our house. Blackberries from the thorny bushes surrounding the land. These were a favorite.
Again, we would be sent out on a hunt with a collection vessel in tow. Theresa, Margaret, Christine and I would come back with bowls and pans filled with fruit. Our youngest sister, Liz, would come back home with a plaintiff cry, "I couldn't find any!" showing us her empty pail - and her purple mouth. It took her a while before realizing the evidence of her mid-morning snack was visible to us!
Christine, even at a very young age the caretaker, would make blackberry tarts, blackberry pancakes, blackberry cobbler. Ohhhh, so good. The golden brown top of the doughy chunks blending beautifully with the sweetened tartness of the compote. It was summer in a pan.
Still as most times in life, these once novel activities gave way to other pursuits...material pursuits...much seeking. That time spent picking blackberries seemed better used to read, watch TV, shop. The warm sunshine and the outdoors suddenly felt stifling and poor. Tending the chickens became much more of a chore than a wondrous glimpse into life and the neverending circle it creates. Even picking pecans lost it's luster. The few dollars earned didn't seem nearly worth the effort. The brown bags, once considered unique, became an inconvenience...a bore. We eventually moved into the suburbs to a bigger house and a more social way of living. Farm life became a thing of the past and was soon replaced.
Yesterday, I was eating some mixed nuts from a canister of Planter's that I bought a week ago. I sifted through the almonds...the hazelnuts...the cashews...the peanuts...the Brazil nuts...looking for those ever elusive pecans. Why are there always five pecans to the hundreds and hundreds of other nuts in those cans? I love pecans! I wanted pecans! Where were my pecans? And in my want, I realized how rich we were growing up...how abundant our lives were in the natural and uncomplicated way that we were raised...and how self-serving and immature it was to overlook this beautiful form of wealth.
Why, oh why, Mr. Peanut, has it taken me 35 years to realize that, in the simplicity of my childhood, I had all I ever needed right in my own home and just outside my front door?