Pecan nut pie - recipe
Cape Town - It’s to-may-toes and to-mah-toes, po-tay-toes and po-tah-toes all over again. We say pee-cun, Americans say pe-kahn, for no reason known to anyone beyond the coast of Florida.
The English sent over a perfectly good language on the Mayflower, but seemingly forgot to send the pronunciation rules with them.
There is the mystifying inability of the Americans to understand the use of the letter “u” when placed alongside an “o”. But no problem, they just fling it out: neighbor, labor, behavior.
In a sub-editor’s style guide, in countries where English is spoken properly, there are lists of “banned Americanisms” that are anathema to the sub-editor. We cringe when we see them. We have hot flushes. We come out in pimples. We sweat at the brow and our hearts pound.
Americanisms are pure torment for those of us who make a living from words, grammar and bothering to get it right – who slave away in sub-editing pools for hour after frustrating hour, pulling our hair out and nibbling our fingers, finally crawling into the pub a jibbering wreck at the end of the working day to blot out the horror.
I have seen grown men leave the subs’ room in tears, crying “No more! I can take no more!” Hours later, you find them prone in the gutter, many pints of brew having failed to assuage the misery and sense of hopelessness.
There are subs who have died of Americanisms, one too many causing them to clutch their breasts and fall to the floor gasping.
When sub-editors watch TV, we sub the dialogue, hurling verbal abuse at the presenters and actors. There is no escape from the deluge for those of us in this professional purgatory, as if sent there to make recompense for the errors of our past lives, when we were all quite clearly Americans who couldn’t bloody speak properly.
There are great and wonderful things Americans have done, even things worthy of those irritating phrases, The American Dream and The American Way, as if the rest of us have no clue how to live responsible, aspirant lives. So many of the greatest novels and works of art come out of America, not least a trio of the greats of modern writing. Three of the pinnacles for my taste are F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and John Steinbeck’s wonderful The Grapes of Wrath. The only annoying thing about any of them is that Lee never wrote another book and F Scott didn’t have much of an output.
But boy, guys, do you have to mangle the English language? Why is it that you can’t seem to say “os” to rhyme with boss, loss, toss or floss? Must you pronounce cosmos as “cos-mose”, Barbados as “bar-bay-dose” and Eileen Wournos as Eileen “Wour-nose”? Even onse eie Charlize Theron fawningly copys the verbal style even though she sure as hell knows how to pronounce “kos”, “bos” and “mos”, back in the grim recesses of her Benoni memory bank.
And could you consider our sensibilities when stressing the wrong syllable, as in oBLIG-a-tory instead of the dreaded o-blig-a-TAW-ry? Could you, like, just forget that “o” is there at all and pretend it’s spelt obligatory? Because that’s how it’s goddamn pronounced, okay? Oh no, then you’d start pronouncing it “ob-lig-AAAHHT-ry. Oh, whatever, let’s call the whole thing off.
To cheer me up, let’s make a pee-cun pie. Not a pe-kahn pie. I made one this week. It is one of the joys of the sweet pie world, and easy to make. You could buy ready-made shortcrust or puff pastry, or make the pastry according to the recipe, which is quick and simple and works just fine.
350ml flour, sifted
120g cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
About 60ml cold water
225g muscovado sugar
30ml (2 tbs) golden syrup
3 large eggs
5ml vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
200g pecan nuts, two-thirds of them chopped, the other third whole
In a large bowl, combine the sifted flour and salt, then use your fingertips to rub in the cubes of butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and pour in a little cold water (don’t get carried away, you can add more but you can’t remove any if you overdo it, Daisy). Mix with your hands, without overworking it, to form a firm pastry. Roll out on to a floured surface until it’s about 5mm thick and press it into a flour-dusted 23cm pastry dish. Prick the bottom with a fork and pop into the fridge for half an hour.
For the filling, combine sugar, butter and golden syrup in a saucepan and simmer over a gentle heat until the butter has melted and the sugar granules have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Beat together the eggs, salt and vanilla essence, and stir this quickly into the syrup. Stir in the chopped pecan nuts.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, and bake in a 180ºC oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Pour in the pecan mix and decorate the top with the whole pecan nuts. Return to the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
If your guests are American, you could enhance their mas-ti-ca-taw-ry experience by reading them this column.