“Just who do you think you are??” – and best-ever southern pecan pie

Pecan pie recipe “after the fold,” down below. But first —

Who are you, really?

Many of us rarely think about who we are, possibly because it can get pretty complicated pretty quickly, or else it’s relatively simple and doesn’t need much exploration. In the latter case, we behave pretty much the same no matter what company we’re in – “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” Consistent, regular, the usual same old “me-ness.” But others adjust their behavior to the people they’re with, to the situation they’re in, or to their current mood.

So: “Just who do you think you are?” is usually a kind of verbal assault – that you’re overstepping some bounds of one sort or another. But remove the “Just” and suddenly it’s a question seeking a real answer.

“What will people think if you wear that to the party?”

Sometimes people find that answer in how they think others see them, defining themselves in part by how they believe they’re regarded. But such a view calls to mind this bit of a quip you may be familiar with:

  • When you’re young, you care what other people think of you.
  • When you’re a bit older, you stop caring what other people think of you.
  • When you’re still older, you learn they weren’t thinking of you to begin with.

Most people we’ve met in Maine don’t seem to give a hoo-rah in Hades what others may think of them – if in fact they are. Individuality is more honored and respected here than in most other places I’ve lived. Still, many people have jobs where they work with others – and what they think of you can play a role in your work life.

A (Johari) Window on your World

In the mid 1950s, two psychologists, Joseph Luft (Joe) and Harrington Ingham (Harry) developed a tool to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others – The four-paned Johari Window, (so called as an approximate blending of their first names), which could be used in a range of self-help and team-building exercises.

Pane 1. Known Self represents the things that you know about yourself, and the things that others know about you. This includes your behavior, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and “public” history.

Pane 2: Hidden Self represents things you know about yourself that others don’t.

Pane 3: Blind Self represents what others know about you that you don’t – kind of the opposite of Pane 2.

Pane 4: Unknown Self – what neither you nor others know about you.

The ultimate goal is to enlarge Pane 1 as much as possible, minimize Panes 2 and 3, and try to squeeze Pane 4 into near-nonexistence. Not so easy, since complete self-knowledge and self-awareness are pretty tough to come by, and, if obtained, may be nearly impossible to communicate to others.

Okay, I’ve wanted to share info on the Johari Window for some time, knowing full well there’s no connection whatsoever to true southern bourbon pecan pie.


Best-ever pecan pie? Maybe… no corn syrup!

(my photo)

This recipe is adapted from one in the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, which may be the only southern cookbook you’ll ever need. Their recipe insists that a real southern pecan pie shouldn’t use light corn syrup. Instead, it calls for sorghum, cane syrup, or molasses.

I kind of agree. Most people use light corn syrup to make this pie, and I usually find it just a little bit too lacking in excitement and richness. The Lee Bros. really want you to use sorghum instead, a staple in the pantries of many southern kitchens, but the last time I checked it’s not that easy to find here in Midcoast Maine (what with only about a million gallons produced annually in the U.S. – about 2.5 oz. per person per year). Same with my pantry – no sorghum! – so I used molasses instead, with great results.

But I’ll concede this point: it’s pretty rich, and if you want to make a tamer version of the pie, use half molasses and half corn syrup (as noted below).

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 4 Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch (which I almost never use – maybe once every few years…)
  • 3/4 cup sorghum, cane syrup, or molasses – or a 3/4 cup blend of molasses and corn syrup if you don’t want it too rich
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 pre-baked pie crust (I used a gluten free crust, baked it at 450 for 5 minutes)

Now do these things:

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • With a hand mixer or whisk, beat the sugar and eggs together – about 1 1/2 minutes. Now add the butter, cornstarch (and salt) and mix till fully combined. I found the cornstarch kind of lumpy, so I used a hand eggbeater till it was well blended.
  • Now add the pecans and syrup, and stir till everything’s nicely mixed.
  • Pour the mixture into the pie shell and place in the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the middle of the pie is “quivery.” Remove from oven and cool for one hour. Serve it warm or chilled, either way.

Option: add 2 to 3 ozs. of bourbon to the mix before baking. I’m going to do that next time…

There it is, for now.



Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.