Published March 10, 2020
THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT
Texas’ official state pie tastes mighty good
By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin
The official state pie of Texas was daring me to cut a piece.
My wife, Kelly, and I don’t often eat sweets so I was shocked to see the sumptuous pecan pie in plain sight in our kitchen. It’s not that we don’t both have a sweet tooth, it’s just that we are trying to limit sugar intake.
I worried I had forgotten a special occasion.
Had I missed a birthday or anniversary? Was it in honor of Go Texan Day?
Nothing special, she said, much to my relief. She explained she had purchased the pie months earlier and had stored it in the freezer until she couldn’t resist the temptation any longer.
She then advised me to devour as much as I wanted because the leftovers would be gone the next day.
You see, Kelly and I don’t have much willpower. So, after snacking on cookies, or a cake or a pie, we give the rest away.
I ate a piece of pecan pie that afternoon. Had another after dinner. And went to the kitchen for a bed-time nibble. The pie had already been given away. My wife is disciplined.
I am ashamed to admit that I’m a newcomer when it comes to pecan pie. I grew up in California and had never had pecan pie until moving to Texas. Even then, I went years without sampling a piece.
Then we moved into a house in Clear Lake that had a huge pecan tree in the courtyard. A pecan tree is not for a lazy gardener like me. They are messy, shedding leaves, branches and pollen everywhere.
Then there were the ravenous squirrels who ate the nuts and left the cracked shells for me to sweep up.
At some point, I decided I should have a taste of pecan pie. It would be the Texas thing to do. It was love at first bite.
The Texas Legislature designated pecan pie the official state pie in 2013. That figures because the pecan is also the state health nut, and the pecan tree is the official tree.
According to the Senate resolution bestowing the honor on pecan pie, pecan trees are native to 150 counties in our state, and the pecan is the state’s only commercially grown nut. Texas pecan growers account for more than 20 percent of all pecans grown in the United States.
The earliest record of our distinctive dessert dates to the late 19th Century when “Texas Siftings,” a weekly humor magazine, described it in 1886 as being “not only delicious but capable of being made into a ‘real state pie.’”
It was around 1930 when the pie became the syrup-based creation it is today. The wife of an executive at the Karo Syrup company combined that product with pecans to make a pie. It proved an irresistible mixture, and the pie was featured in popular cookbooks in the 1940s.
Kelly has a longer history than I do with pecan pie. The brand of pie we munched on that day not only tasted great, but it was filled with nostalgia for her.
Kelly spent her childhood in rural Oklahoma and cherishes memories of her father, a doctor, taking her and her sister along on hospital rounds in nearby Pauls Valley.
On the way home, they would stop at a restaurant and have a piece of their favorite pecan pie.
The restaurant was owned by two brothers, Lee and Julian Field. They had begun by opening a gas station after World War I and then opened a small restaurant in 1925.
Each morning their wives cooked pastries in their homes for the restaurant. The demand for the pecan pies became so great they added a bakery to the restaurant.
By 1975, the family had opened a modern factory and was delivering frozen pecan pies across the country.
My wife’s sister spotted a Field’s pecan pie while shopping in our area, and the family has enjoyed them ever since.
It may be heresy to eat a Texas state pie that was made in Oklahoma, but it sure tasted good. Imagine if we hadn’t given away the Blue Bell.
(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)