A steady stream of people stopped by Tim and Wendy Pearson’s home on Thursday to help carry on a family tradition that began in 1921 — having pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving.
“It started at my grandparent’s farm in Madison, New Hampshire, and has spread all over the country,” Tim Pearson, 53, of Holden said.
Pearson’s paternal grandfather was the 12th of 13 children on the farm. The cousins in the lineage now number 165 and Pearson Pie Breakfasts are held as far away as Alaska, California, Delaware and Georgia
Tim and Wendy Pearson have held a pie breakfast at their home for at least 20 years.
Abbie Demers, 35, of Warner, New Hampshire, is at least three generations removed from the Pearsons who began the tradition but she grew up having pie for breakfast with family and friends on Thanksgiving.
“You come once and you’re always invited,” she said.
Tim Pearson, whose mother Mary Pearson, now 90, married into the family, has compiled the recollections of a few of those early Thanksgivings on the New Hampshire farm in the 1920s and ‘30s from that first generation of Pearson pie breakfast participants. One was written by his late “Aunt May” in 1941 for the local newspaper, the Madisonian.
The children, including visiting cousins, were expected to arise early and talk a long walk to build up their appetites, she said. They were under strict orders not to wake the grownups.
“I imagine we acted as a good alarm clock those mornings,” she wrote. “Out of doors, we made no attempt to suppress our excitement. A pack of wild Indians couldn’t have made more noise. We walked, ran and fooled around for an hour or more. Then, with wet feet and muddy shoes and empty stomachs we returned to the house. The women groaned to see us coming, but we were there, they might as well make use of us.
“So we set to work setting the long table and as one of the older ones, I had to wash up the ‘brats’ and get them ready for breakfast,” she continued. “What a privilege to be allowed to help set the pies on the table. Oh yes, we had a pie breakfast. That’s why we are all so ambitious at such early hours. We’d have apple, mince, raisin, coconut, peach, prune, cranberry, date, squash, pumpkin, banana, lemon, cream, nut pineapple and many others. We searched the cookbooks for new recipes so that we could find [the] ingredients to make [them].”
The first course was always a deep dish chicken pie with a rich gravy, she said. That tradition has continued with chicken and meat pies being a staple at Pearson Pie Breakfasts. Tim Pearson’s sister, Alice Pearson Peterson, 62, of Westbrook said Thursday that she always makes a meat pie.
“One year at my house, we had squirrel and rabbit pies,” she said. “I thought the squirrel tasted better than the rabbit. This year, one of the apple pies has bear fat in the crust.”
People don’t have to bring a pie to drop by on Thanksgiving morning, but many do, Tim Pearson said.
“I don’t make them, I just eat them,” Alex Pinkham, 12, of Dedham said.
She is one of Tim Pearson’s students at Dedham School where he teaches physical education and health.
“As a health teacher, I talk about physical and emotional health and family and social health,” he said. “So, this — pie for breakfast — fits into the family, social and emotional health part of it.”
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