Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Pilgrim Legend Becomes Thanksgiving Tradition

DEAR ABBY: Last year, our family added a new tradition to our Thanksgiving celebration. As we were being seated at the table, we wondered about a packet of corn kernels at each plate. Our 8-year-old granddaughter explained by reciting "The Legend of the Five Kernels":

"It was very cold for the Pilgrims that first winter. Food was in short supply. Some days, they had only five kernels of corn. When spring came, the Pilgrims planted the remaining corn. The sun and rain helped the seeds to grow and much food was harvested in the fall. Every Thanksgiving thereafter, the Pilgrims placed five kernels of corn beside each plate to remind them of their blessings:

"The first kernel reminded them of the autumn beauty.

"The second reminded them of their love for each other.

"The third reminded them of their family's love.

"The fourth reminded them of their friends ... especially their Indian brothers.

"The fifth kernel reminded them of their freedom."

Abby, I am blessed to have learned something I never knew before. -- Z. JACOBS, FLORIDA

DEAR Z.: What a charming tradition. It honors the original inhabitants of our great country, as well as the immigrants who followed.

DEAR ABBY: When I was a little girl, I would always ask my mom to make the same cake for my birthday. It was luscious, a rich chocolate with white frosting and bitter chocolate drizzled over it. I thought it was an old family recipe Mom had gotten from her mother. She recently told me she got it from an old column of yours.

I'm 40 years old now, and it has to have been 25 years since I have tasted that cake. I would love to have it for my 41st birthday. Mom told me to ask you for it because she would be thrilled to have that recipe again, too. She also wants the recipe for your fabulous pecan pie. Does this ring any bells with you? -- MICKEY IN MADISON, WIS.

DEAR MICKEY: It certainly does. The chocolate cake has been a longtime favorite in my family -- and many of my readers'. (It was once featured on the cover of a women's magazine.)

The recipe is too long to be included here, but because I received so many requests for it over the years, I included it in the first of my two cookbooklets. To order my cookbooklet set, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

However, the pecan pie recipe is short enough for me to print. I'm sure it will be a hit at your Thanksgiving feast.

ABBY'S FAMOUS PECAN PIE

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/3 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare pie crust.

In large bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla; mix well. Pour filling into prepared pie crust; sprinkle with pecan halves.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is set. (Toothpick inserted will come out clean when pie is done.) Cool. If crust or pie appears to be getting too brown, cover with foil for remaining baking time.

You can top it with a bit of whipped cream or ice cream, but even plain, nothing tops this!

Serves 8 to 10.

TIP: The original recipe stated that the pie should be baked 45 to 50 minutes in a preheated 350-degree GAS oven. If an electric oven is used, it may be necessary to add 15 to 20 minutes to the baking time. (Begin testing the pie with a toothpick after 45 minutes.)

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600