America has voted. It’s over. It’s decided. Put on your grown-up britches. Face the music. It was close, I admit that. But it’s done. Don’t argue about it around the Thanksgiving table. Just accept it. One of you won. One of you lost.
Oh, you can argue about it, sure, but you’d be better off hollerin’ down a well.
So this is it. When you’re about to bite into that sweet potato casserole with pecans on top or head for the dessert table and ask for pecan pie, just remember it’s pronounced “puh-CON” not “PEA-can.”
What that, you ask? What did you think I was talking about?
I’m talking about how to say the word pecan, that most Texas of nuts. And Fort Worth was central to settling this argument that can split families like … well, like a pecan tree in a thunderstorm.
Fort Worth is home to the American Pecan Council, an organization that promotes all things pecan. Along with promoting the seed of the tree that primarily grows in Georgia, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, which produces nearly half of the world’s total, it has a site with recipes, etc.
The pecan is a distinctly American nut. It was widely eaten by Native Amercians back in the day and the word “pecan” is from an Algonquian word variously referring to pecans, walnuts and hickory nuts.
Texas and pecans go way back. In 1919, the Texas Legislature made the pecan tree the state tree of Texas, but it didn’t stop there. In 2001, the pecan was declared the state’s official “health nut.” But, hey why stop there. In 2013, pecan pie was made the state’s official pie. Pecans are obviously bipartisan.
While the American Pecan Council is based in Fort Worth, the town of San Saba brags of being “The Pecan Capital of the World” and the site of the “Mother Tree” (c. 1850), considered to be the source of the state’s production through its progeny. Obviously, Texas takes its nuts seriously.
But the country and families have remained divided all these years. Do you say, “Hand me a piece of Aunt Minnie’s delicious ‘PEA-can’ pie sweetie?” or is it “Man, that ‘puh-CON’ pie looks almost too good to eat. Almost.”
No matter how you say it, the pandemic has been good for pecans. As consumers embrace trends like cooking at home and healthy snacking, pecan sales have increased. From September 2019 to August 2020, U.S. pecan sales rose 17 percent compared to the previous year.
That’s why the American Pecan Council launched The Super Safe Pecan Debate this year. It’s a partisan issue you can passionately argue without risking your invitation to next year’s family gathering. Maybe.
Seriously, pecans are key to Texas. My great-uncle’s farm had several pecan trees and according to people who grew up with him, the family did better than other families in the area of Thorpe Spring because they always carefully harvested their pecan trees and had more money in the winter than other families because of the pecan crop. I live in my late great-uncle’s home and he planted a pecan tree in the backyard from the trees they harvested in Thorpe Spring.
Founded in 2016 through a Federal Marketing Order, the APC’s mission is to promote the many benefits of the American Pecan and help tell the story of this truly unique nut. With oversight by the USDA, the American Pecan Council aims to build consumer demand, develop markets and establish industry standards. The Fort Worth-based organization is funded by pecan handlers in 15 pecan-producing states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.
But pecans have faced some issues in the last year. In 2019, the U.S. exported 47 million pounds of American pecans to Asia, mostly China and Vietnam, according to Texas A&M research. But the recent trade war with China hit the pecan industry hard and now the pecan industry is looking to increase domestic demand.
But how to say the word?
Voters got a chance to win one of 300 limited-edition pecan snacking blankets that feature the two pronunciations on opposite sides. The winners of the pecan snacking blankets will also receive a snack pack of fresh pecans and recipes for delicious and nutritious holiday snacks.
“2020 has given us a lot to discuss – and even more topics to avoid – at this year’s Thanksgiving table but ‘puh-CON’ vs. ‘PEA-can’ is one debate you can safely bring up with family and friends. With voting top of mind, we knew it was the perfect time to re-ignite the age-old pecan pronunciation question,” said Alex Ott, Executive Director of the American Pecan Council. “Even across the 15 pecan-growing states from California to the Carolinas, growers and shellers themselves say it differently. So we’re asking America to help us settle it once and for all and encourage everyone to join in on this fun, light-hearted debate. But no matter how you say them, we can all agree that pecans belong on every Thanksgiving table.”
And the winner is: puh-CON received 50.54% of the vote, while PEA-can fell just short at 49.46%. No Libertarians were in the running.
As far as I can determine, PEA-can is not demanding a recount and crying fraud.
Still, there’s little doubt the debate will continue. After all, it’s better to talk about how to say pecan at the Thanksgiving dinner table than to bring up politics. But one thing about arguing about pecans. You can argue while eating pecan pie. Nobody’s going to get their hackles raised while eating pie.