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Remembering and Cherishing Pecan Memories

Unlike most Texans and Southerners, I only have a handful of pecan stories from my childhood. My grandparents didn’t have a tree. My mom didn’t really bake. So, we didn’t spend hours baking pecan pies or picking up pecans out in the backyard.

But like many Americans, my first—pretty much all—my pecan memories come from Thanksgiving.

When I was growing up, my family spent almost every Thanksgiving in Dallas at my aunt’s house. While the turkey roasted in the oven, my cousins and I would walk down the street to the jungle gym at the local middle school. My parents would typically accompany us, while everyone else watched the Dallas Cowboys play.

As we walked down the street, my dad would stop at an old pecan tree that grew along the sidewalk. He’d pick up pecans out from the cracks, split them open and eat them as the rest of us skipped along, racing to the playground.

He’d be sure to pick up enough to fill his coat pockets for the journey back. (Fun fact: This is considered theft in Decatur County, Georgia.)

But when he offered me one, I’d turn up my nose.

“Disgusting!” I’d cry, while he laughed. The pecans were covered in dirt and who knows what else. Sure, I had gone hunting and fishing. But eating a nut from a questionable tree in the suburbs of Dallas? That’s where I drew the line.

Little did I know that this was not only a perfectly safe and normal way to collect pecans but also the original way. A number of Native American tribes—Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, and others—ate pecans. The Comanche even used pecan leaves for medicinal purposes.

Knowing this and everything else that I now know about pecans, I wish I could travel back. I’d readily help my dad pick pecans out from the sidewalk cracks. I’d help him crack them open and try to distinguish if the nut was a native or an improved. I wouldn’t be successful at that guess, but I’d try at least.

Besides their historical significance, pecans for many people mean family. When I look at a pecan, I think of my dad. I think of Thanksgiving and football and happy moments interspersed with food and laughter. Pecans mean so much more than just a specific American holiday.

And for each of us, that meaning is unique. These nuts are our livelihoods, our favorite snack, our memories.

So, while the holidays rush toward us at blinding, overwhelming speeds, let’s take a moment to think about the pecan. Harvest continues. Pecans are being shipped out day-in and day-out.

We think about these nuts in a market-sense 24/7, but can we remember the first time we were introduced to pecans? The first time we tasted one?

To all my fellow Americans, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! And to our friends who don’t celebrate, I hope you get a quiet moment this month to spend with your family and friends before the rush of the holidays.

Author Photo

Catherine Clark

Catherine Clark is the managing editor of Pecan South. She has her M.S. in Journalism from the University of Southern California, and her B.A. in Communication and Spanish from Trinity University. For questions, comments or concerns, she can be reached at