I couldn't really say that Catherine LeDuke qualified as a great cook; certainly not a gourmet cook. She made a pretty good "fingerless" meat loaf and a fair pot roast. All in all I would have to rate Mother as a "good" cook who never let any of her children go hungry.
Mother did, however, have one particular specialty: Pecan Pie. As I think back I have to wonder if the pie was great because of the ingredients that she put in it or if, perhaps, it was the total atmosphere surrounding the making of the pie that set it apart.
I think I'll have to let you be the judge.
Catherine LeDuke's recipe for Pecan Pie:
Start with a Holiday. Thanksgiving is most appropriate but Christmas will do. In a pinch the homecoming of any child will suffice.
Children age 5 to 15 are required; Grandchildren are preferred.
Send kids out to the back yard with a short handled pecan picker upper. It's a funny looking thing shaped like a wire bird cage on a stick. If you smash down hard enough, the pecan on the ground will be smooshed through the wires and end up in the cage part. Sometimes two smooshes are required.
Pecan picker upper should be passed around from kid to kid so that all have a chance to gather some pecans. Adult supervision is recommended during this phase of the pie making process. When it becomes apparent that the quantity of pecan picker upper picked pecans is not going to be enough to make at least three pies, supervisors must switch picking crew to "manual" mode.
When a sufficient unprocessed supply of the main ingredient has been obtained, bring picking crew into house and begin the "nut cracking" phase of the pie. Once the nut cracker is located (usually requires 30 of searching), place on top of spread out newspapers, and begin cracking.
Keep in mind that a nut cracker to a 8 year old is heavy machinery. A nut is placed in position on the nut holding bar and then the handle which is attached to a squeezy contraption is pulled down slowly (slowly is important) but firmly compressing the nut until it cracks with a bang. If all goes well, no fingers will be broken and all nuts will be cracked.
From there the whole mess is moved to the sorting department where the "meat" of the pecan is separated from the shells. Supervisors will need to caution workers not to eat pecans at this stage or they will be sent back outside with the short handled pecan picker upper thingy. Experienced supervisors make sure to begin with that more raw product is picked than needed.
When sufficient pecans have made it through the sorting department, deliver them to "Bubba" who then turns them into delicious pecan pies.
After dinner cut each pie into eight pieces and distribute to those diners who left room in the "pecan pie" area of their stomachs. Cool whip topping is optional. Prepare to hear many forms of YUMMMMMMO !!!!
Be sure and leave several pieces for seconds to be consumed after the evening game of Michigan Rummy.
And that's how to make Catherine LeDuke's pecan pie.
Whattttttttttttttttttt!!!! You were expecting to hear about sugar and syrup and crust and how much, and how long in the oven.
Geeeezzzze. That information is on the back of the bottle of "light" karo syrup. That's what Mother has always looked at when she baked pecan pie.