A sweet potato pie tradition that almost wasn't, and other stories of unforgettable family recipes

Updated 8:50 AM ET, Wed November 24, 2021

(CNN)The holiday season is upon us, many of us have prepared our menus for the holiday dinners and parties. Some of you may be pulling grandma's braciole recipe steeped in tomato sauce or that creamy garlic mash your mom made every Thanksgiving. Or you may be undecided about using a tried and true roast turkey recipe your family has passed down for decades or frying something new.

Whatever it is you are cooking, we all have memorable stories about the food that has been prepared and the recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation.
These are those stories. The ones about a certain dessert that is now being made by their grandson or the ones about treasured recipes that were forged through war or hardship.
It's not the dishes themselves that have any magical powers, but the memories that come flooding back every time we take a bite.

If you aren't a fan of dates you still may want to take a bite

Barbara Rhea, 78 | Beavercreek, OH
Left: From left clockwise, Barbara Rhea's grandmother, Mildred Covert, in 1908, Covert's original date nut pinwheel recipe, Covert in 1956 and Rhea at age 10. Right: Date nut pinwheels. (Courtesy Barbara Rhea)
Barbara Rhea has been cooking date nut pinwheel cookies since she was eight when she and her four siblings went to live with her grandmother.
Rhea said her grandmother baked the cookies all the time and she would sit in the kitchen and watch her make the sweet creations, which had been written on a piece of paper around the time she married in the early 1900s. Her family has been using the original recipe to make her cookies ever since.
When her grandmother died in 1957, the responsibility to make the cookies full of dates and walnuts fell to her aunt.
"She made them every Christmas and then my aunt took over... and then somehow I got interested in doing it," Rhea said. "My aunt passed away in 1991 so since then, I'm the only one who has been doing it."
She said she's already looking to pass the recipe to the next generation, with her daughter and two of her grandsons interested in continuing the tradition.
"People will say I don't like dates, but when they eat these, they like these," she said.
And her proof is when she replaced the dough with crescent rolls and finished as a top-five dessert at the 1988 Pillsbury Bake-off.

A sweet potato pie tradition that almost wasn't

Sheila Connors, 69 & Jasmine Myers, 66 | Maple Shade, NJ