PTPI Blog


Cultural Cooking: Southern Pecan Pie from Florida, USA

October 29th, 2014

Recipe Title: Southern Pecan Pie

Submitted by: PTPI members Carl Bennett and Family

Category: Dessert

Serves: 6-8

Preparation and Cook Time: About 1 hour.

May Carroll & Carl Melvin Bennett PTPI 2014

May Carroll “Mema” and Carl Melvin “Papa” Bennett, 2014

Recipe Description: This is my Aunt Mary Belle’s  (Mrs. Abbott L. Browne (Mary Belle) c1915 – c2010.) southern pecan pie.

“pecan |pəˈkän, ˈpēˌkan| noun
a smooth brown nut with an edible kernel similar to a walnut.
[This nut is obtained from a hickory tree (Carya illinoensis, family Juglandaceae), native to the southern United States.]”

Ingredients: 

Note: Remember to pay attention to the unit of measurement used. Check conversions online or click here for a quick guide to U.S. and metric conversions. 

1 cup dark “Karo” syrup: A corn syrup which is made from the starch of maize (called corn in some countries) and contains varying amounts of maltose and higher oligosaccharides, depending on the grade.

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups pecan pieces

1 teaspoon bourbon ( This cuts the sweetness a bit )

2 cups sugar

Pinch of salt

4 eggs, beaten

2 frozen, unbaked pie shells

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Recipe Steps: 

1. Put pie crust shells in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 seconds.

2. Combine all other ingredients and fill pie shells.

3. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes.

5. These pies freeze well.

Southern Thanksgiving Dinner1

A Southern Thanksgiving dinner. Pecan pie is traditionally served for dessert.


Discussion Question for Like Water for Chocolate – Smith Island Cake

October 21st, 2014

Question answered by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator at PTPI.

In a world with incredible diversity, food stands out—along with music, art, and other cultural artifacts—as part of a universal language. Everyone needs to eat, and the ceremony surrounding food preparation and enjoyment is a notably human trait. Homemade food is a joy to discover, no matter its cultural roots. 

One of my favorite parts of Like Water for Chocolate is the way a different recipe frames each chapter. The author begins each chapter with the name of the dish and a list of ingredients and adds a few instructions at a time throughout the narrative until the entire recipe is shared by the end of the chapter. The recipes Laura Esquivel includes are presumably ones that have meant something to her in her own life. They provide a sensory context for the intimacy and abandonment, the wounds and healing of the rest of the book. 

The author’s exercise in using recipes to evoke memories (“…it was very pleasant to savor its aroma, for smells have the power to evoke the past, bringing back sounds and even other smells that have no match in the present”) reminded me of an experience in my recent life that I’d like to share with you: 

Smith Island Cake

Smith Island Cake

I grew up in Maryland, on the Mid-Atlantic East Coast of the United States, and life on the water was important to my family. The Chesapeake Bay—confluence for a substantial watershed and home to countless species of the land, air, and sea—bisects the state and is a source of food, employment, and recreation for many of the state’s residents. My family regularly spent time on Kent Island, the largest island in the Bay, where my parents still live today.

As I grew up and learned more about the Chesapeake, I discovered that there was an island, Smith Island, that had been inhabited for centuries without being connected by bridge to the mainland. Residents of Smith Island exemplify life on the water, making a living from the Bay’s bounty and creating a cozy community apart from the more populous mainland. Visiting Smith Island quickly became a dream of mine.

During the 2013 holiday season, on a visit to Maryland, my mother and I decided to offer the many relatives who would visit in the coming days a treat. We set out to bake the Maryland state dessert, an eight- to ten-layer cake named after its home, Smith Island. We found the recipe for Smith Island cake, struggled as we baked, frosted, and stacked the thin individual layers, and proudly displayed and served our finished product, pictured with this post, for our family to enjoy. It was delicious and a way to celebrate both the holidays and life on the Chesapeake Bay.

In August of this year, my family and I had the opportunity to travel several hours by boat to Smith Island. It was a picturesque day that lives only in postcards, with the Bay calmer than normal. We were welcomed warmly by the residents of Smith Island, who showed us their workspaces and flowering gardens and served us some wonderful Smith Island cake. We were even able to take a whole one home with us to share with friends.

For years to come I know that Smith Island and its namesake cake will offer happy memories, best served with a glass of milk.

You can learn more about Smith Island here and make your own Smith Island cake using this age-old recipe. I’d invite you, as well, to investigate PTPI’s Cultural Cooking blog series, surface your own recipe-memories, and submit a dish or two from your family or culture to share with the world.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.


Discussion Question for Like Water for Chocolate – Cooking with Love

October 16th, 2014

Question answered by Matthew Hughes, Program Coordinator at PTPI.

What traditions does your family have that involve food? Is there a secret ingredient or preparation method that your family claims as only yours?

Photo - Blog Post 2

Food is a central element of Like Water for Chocolate. Tita’s family regularly gathers round the table to share a meal, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Tita puts herself into every dish she cooks. Nacha mentors her in the culinary arts; by the end of the novel, Tita is mentoring others.

Cooks often go beyond a written recipe, experimenting with new flavor combinations, altering ingredient lists based on what they have in their pantry, and updating antiquated parsley-covered presentations. As a cover artist who makes a classic track sound new again, Tita has a transcendent effect on at least three of the meals in the novel. The intense longing she feels at her sister’s wedding is internalized in the cake she prepares and translates into an interesting reaction from the guests. Quail in place of pheasants, coupled with rose petals marked by Tita, leads to an unexpected effect for Tita’s family members in March. In November, Tita’s anger almost ruins her bean dish until she finds a way to coax the beans into deliciousness. Ultimately it is Tita, and not just the ingredients or method of preparation, that influences her food and its impact on those she feeds.

As I was growing up, my mother and grandmother had a custom of saying that they were making my food with love. I don’t expect that this line was unique to my family—I’ve seen it used as marketing language in the grocery store—but it meant so much nonetheless. Somehow, the love with which my mother and grandmother prepared meals transferred into the taste, into the food’s ability to sate a hunger, into the togetherness that my family felt, gathered at table.

Last year, when my mother mailed me cookies on a whim, she included a note that meant more than the cookies themselves (delicious though they were!). Love was my mother’s not-so-secret ingredient in the cookies and something that I’ll always treasure.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.