Baking is Love! It started over 45 years ago sitting in the kitchen with my mother and maternal grandmother Adella, whom I lived with until the age of 5 years old and my paternal grandmother Pearl, whom I spent summers with as a young child.
I am Crystal Marie Harris,, my parents Ruth Harris and James Fletcher. I was raised in the projects in the East Germantown section of Philadelphia, where family gatherings brought out the best homemade recipes. When I graduated from the fifth grade, I earned the honor of ‘Most Outstanding Student’, which was voted upon by the teaching staff, my mother immediately beamed at my academic achievements. My family and I moved out of the projects and into our home on the West Side of Germantown in October of 1978. During my teenage years, my mother continued to mentally and financially push for me and enrolled me in the Philadelphia Catholic School systems to enhance my love for spiritual devotion and academic studies. I loved school but I also loved cooking.
I spent most of my life hanging out with my mother, sister, aunts, and grandmothers in the family kitchens. They did a lot of cooking and talking. I learned a lot from them. Always being the helper- cutting, chopping, and dicing, but most of all “taste-testing”. Everything was measured and cooked by “eyeing it” or “tasting it” – no measuring utensils were ever required… this is how one learned how to cook back in the days, especially baking sweet potato pies. I graduated from Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls, with honors, in June of 1988. I continued my academic studies at the Community College of Philadelphia until a house fire interrupted the dreams of getting a degree in Business and Accounting, with the hopes of opening our own family restaurant. Throughout the years I was blessed to always have a full-time job, to raise my only child as a single parent. Always with a part-time job to help make ends meet, I also worked fast-food restaurants, selling dinners, promoting makeup, nutritional products and selling women body shapers, but selling my sweet potato pies always kept food on the table. My sweet potato pie recipe started from my mother Ruth. My mother carried the torch of hosting family gatherings for years until the disease Alzheimer’s.
I never stopped competing in local pie contest and taking orders from my family and friends for my sweet potato pies during the holidays. This great recipe, taken down from two generations, being tweaked to what it is today, After competing for years locally in Philadelphia, Finally winning the Philadelphia Pie Contest in 2019, Winning a show on the Foodist Networks.
Now Continuing my Education at Escoffier Culinary Acadamy I can proudly say that I am also carrying the torch to host my family gatherings and I am still taking orders from family and friends for my sweet potato pie. Trying to make my family and my ancestors proud as well, I am hoping and praying that this family tradition will continue for more generations to come of baking that I share with you.