I’ve learned the secret to this all-American tradition of ours is the concept of the three-grain pie: a pie catered to a palette of foods and flavors that blend together for a recognizable American experience, made by a California chef.
None of us have a specific memory of Thanksgiving in the late ’70s or ’80s. We were raised by two single mothers with meager financial resources who, never a proponent of the big meal, opted for a simple, all-American holiday meal prepared with a low-key philosophy of love and respect for our families and our country.
Both my parents come from southern Alabama, where Southern foods reigned, including sweet potato pie. My father cooks nothing else in the house — it is his way of expressing his love for family, patriotism and having a big meal (I was allowed to eat and was never thrown out of my dad’s house; why, I will never know).
She cooked and cared for us, but she was a parent who never taught her children how to eat or prepare food — we grew up with the knowledge that every meal and every playtime involved doting on our parents’ favorite dishes. We grew up eating mashed potatoes with gravy, homemade apple pie and those many sweet potato pies.
Finally, in the mid-1980s, my mother met and married a Mexican man. He’s an electrician and mechanical contractor who stays out of the kitchen. My father grew tired of some of the Latino and Hispanic staples, and refused to eat any of them unless it came with a side of eggs, grits and a pot of delectable “pizzo” or suzón, hotened with whole tomatoes and onions. We decided to put it together.