Why you should care

Because even the chilliest holidays deserve a bit of southern warmth.

From our family to yours: OZY staff share their favorite time-honored holiday recipes to keep you warm, stuffed and slightly buzzed all season.

It was the 1920s, and my great-aunt Ella was dying from rheumatic fever. So my family relocated from New Orleans to take in what Ella’s mother, Rosina Davis, called the “curative Mississippi Gulf Coast waters.” But the fresh sea air of Biloxi didn’t grant my great-grandfather a job, forcing him to commute back and forth to Louisiana … until, that is, he met a local candy store owner named Ira DeKnight. DeKnight gave my great-grandfather work to get him through the lean times, a favor my family later repaid by opening their home to the widowed and ailing candy man in his final years.

But the circle of giving didn’t stop there. During his time living in their home, DeKnight gave my great-grandmother and grandmother, Nettie, then just a child, the secrets of his trade, teaching them to make everything from divinity fudge to southern pralines. As an adult, Nettie and her husband moved north to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where my mom and her siblings were raised. Midwestern holidays are a far cry colder — and whiter — than in Biloxi, but my family always mixed ice skating, snowmen and warm cherry pies with DeKnight’s pralines, a nod to a tradition borne from southern hospitality. And as my daughter, Gabi, and I — now across the pond in England — recently spooned the syrup and nuts onto wax paper, I recounted the memories I had of doing the same as a kid. Rather than growing bitter in his final years, DeKnight embraced his second chance at family life and, in doing so, unwittingly launched a new holiday tradition … forever followed by New Year’s resolutions to lose the added weight.

Ingredients: `

  • 4 cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound pecan halves

Preparation:

  • Bring the sugar, cream and butter to the boiling point.
  • Let it boil for three minutes without stirring.
  • Remove from heat and gently stir in pecan halves.
  • Spoon the candy onto wax paper, allotting 3–4 pecan halves per piece.
  • Cool.
  • Wrap individually in wax paper.



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