I met a woman at my first job after college who was from New Orleans. She brought a level of multiculturalism to the curriculum that reflected our clients – the children of the US military. We were in their child development program and I learned more there than I had ever expected.
She held a multicultural night for the staff and we each brought in something from our cultures to share. Food is the best way to come together.
I brought latkes. I have a vague memory of a table filled with fabric covers representing cultures and foods placed carefully on top. What I remember most of all, though was Sylvia’s sweet potato pie. It was the perfect consistency with beautifully browned marshmallows on top and it was amazing. I can practically taste it now.
From that moment on, I made that sweet potato pie for my family’s Thanksgiving feast. The only problem was my mother refused to believe that it was a dessert, and she served it warm and as a side dish. I could never convince her otherwise.
That was twernty-four years ago and it has remained a family tradition. I make it, not only for Thanksgiving but also for Christmas and Rosh Hashanah, sometimes even Passover. It is a family favorite. The last couple of times, I haven’t wanted all the bother of making a pie, so I’ve used the recipe, or my version of it without the graham cracker crust and called it a sweet potato casserole. It tastes just as good.
Warm or cold, side dish or dessert, I could eat this every day.
Here’s my variation of the recipe that I’ve used the last decade or so, and will be making it to bring to my sister-in-law’s on Thursday. This is our first year without my mother-in-law and as tough as that is going to be, I want my kids to have something that they’re used to having at her house.
Cook one large can of sweet potatoes or cut yams. Bring it to a boil and then drain. Mash it smooth and add one stick of unsalted butter. Mix thoroughly.
Mix in about 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Add more if you like it sweeter.
Add cinnamon and nutmeg, about a teaspoon each, although I don’t really measure. I add it directly by grating over a microplane.
Pour into a pie crust or a casserole dish and cover completely with mini-marshmallows. If I use a crust, I use the Keebler graham cracker crust that serves two extra people.
Put in a 350 degree oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Take out when the marshmallows are melty and golden-browned.
If it’s a pie, let cool a little and cut with a cake/pie slicer. If casserole, scoop out with a large spoon.
Personally , I like it right side up, with the marshmallows on top. My family doesn’t usually care, and it drives me crazy.