A beer and a mini pecan pie for G-Mom
My mother, Dr. Constance Wilson—a one-of-a-kind, unspeakably brilliant, and deeply selfless woman—died in October at the age of 71.
I learned to cook from G-Mom, as we called her after my daughter Sienna was born, which is how I learned to appreciate dining in general. As the only child to a mother who was single for 14 years of my early life, I was never too far away from G-Mom’s after my school day and her work day ended. She spent hours in the kitchen, every single day, cooking enough food for a village.
Preparing lots of food, all the time, was part of her mission as a mother, family matriarch, college professor, and city planner to spread love and take care of her own beloved community. But without a doubt, one of the greatest joys in Mom’s life was being a grandmother—my daughter Sienna was the light of her life.
G-Mom really loved to make miniature sweet potato pies and pecan pies, not only for Sienna but everybody else. She’d often buy a package of miniature pie shells, make a large batch of filling, bake up somewhere between twelve and twenty, and pass them out for whatever random reason. But G-Mom didn’t like normal pecan pies, with nuts only at the top, and all the goo in the middle. She made hers with the pecans mixed in with the filling so that each bite was embedded with pecans. Everything she did had a bit of her own style and was done according to the way she preferred.
I thought about G-Mom’s pecan pie when I was asked recently to participate in the Atlanta edition of Blacktoberfest, held in October at Hippin Hops’ new Stone Mountain location, an annual festival celebrating the contributions of Black Americans to craft beer. I was paired with Monday Night Brewing and collaborated with MNB brewmaster Peter Kiley on what sort of beer we would make together. First, we both wanted to make something good. We also wanted our beer to reflect community values, especially among Black beer lovers. And we were also mindful not to make anyone not Black feel excluded from enjoying the beer. G-Mom was certainly a person who brought people together.
So we came up with an idea that worked regardless of racial background. We would make a beer inspired by pecan pies made by grandmothers. Our version of Blacktoberfest, a “Grandma’s pecan-pie-inspired, barrel-aged, blended strong ale,” is an equal blend of maple bourbon barrel-aged imperial brown ale and a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. It’s conditioned on toasted pecans and Madagascar vanilla. It’s also 13.2% ABV. It’s sweet, balanced, and strong—just like a matriarch.
And by the way, G-Mom would want as many people to have her recipe as possible. By sharing it I’m able to make sure she lives on in kitchens where sweet, strong, and balanced people make the world go ‘round from their command posts in front of their ovens.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, whip eggs and sugar with a fork. Combine eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and butter. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Distribute pecans in pie shells and pour filling on top. Place shells on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Cool and serve.
Note: Dr. Wilson used both light and dark corn syrup by using 6 tablespoons of each syrup to make ¾ cup.