I have a ritual that I follow every year around Thanksgiving. It started one year when my second husband and I were driving around on one of our Saturday afternoon jaunts around Memphis. We were out in the country somewhere east of the Bluff City, and we came upon a family selling sweet potatoes. Their pickup truck was full of the orangey, golden jewels of the south. They had their two grandchildren with them, and they were selling small bags of sweet potatoes for a few dollars. The kids were dirty and very, very happy-looking. They were cute. I talked to the farmers about their crop, how to store them even though I already knew the drill and asked them for their favorite ways to prepare them. They gave me a flyer with information on sweet potatoes from the Mississippi Sweet Potato Commission, and we left with our little bag of sweet potatoes.
I enjoyed those sweet potatoes so much that I was sorry when they were gone. I enjoyed them in large part because I met the hands that grew them, and I felt like I contributed a little to their business by buying from them. I went back to that spot several times that year but could never find them again. My ex and I mentioned them every now and then and wondered where they were and how they were doing. The next year I was driving down to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving, and I found several sweet potato farmers selling their potatoes on the side of the road. I stopped at every one and bought some of their produce. I’m not really sure why it made me feel so good, but it did, and I’ve made a tradition out of seeking out sweet potato farmers every fall.
Since I have so many sweet potatoes every year, I’ve had to learn a variety of ways to eat them! Luckily, I love them. I eat them baked, sauteed, pureed and roasted. My favorite way to cook them is to roast them. I cut them in large chunks, toss them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I roast them at about 375 degrees and stir about every 20 minutes until they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I roast a large pan of them and eat them as a side dish, mix a few chunks into oatmeal, serve them as hash with a pan-fried egg, or just heat them up and eat them as a snack when I’m craving something sweet.
I will also bake them and keep them in the refrigerator. I used baked ones in smoothies with almond milk, bananas, cinnamon, ricotta or greek yogurt. I’ll mix them with peanut butter or ricotta cheese and almonds for a snack. One of my favorite comfort food meals is a sort of porridge made of sweet potato, ricotta cheese, baked apple chunks, almonds and cinnamon. That warms me up quicker than anything, and since I crave creamy when I get stressed, it fits the bill. And, of course, baked sweet potatoes are just fabulous with a little butter as a side dish.
I’ve discovered that my dog loves sweet potatoes. She’ll go to the basket in my kitchen and get her own. I don’t stop her because they are cheap, healthy and she’s cute when she does it. Last night I went to the pet store, and I was looking at the bagged dog treats. Good heavens…. for the price of a bag of dog treats, I could buy a half a box of Louisiana Sweet Potatoes. I think I’ll pass. I also noticed that they now have sweet potato dog treats for an exorbitant price tag. I hope that little family in Mississippi is profiting from that industry. My friend Tiffany bought a half a box of sweet potatoes from me this weekend after I visited a farm in Mansura LA. She said she didn’t think she could eat them all, and I told her she was crazy. I also told her to give them to her dog for a snack. She texted me this evening and told me Vegas – her dog – ran around the yard celebrating for 5 minutes with her sweet potato and then sat down and ate it. She said she had as much fun watching her as Vegas had eating it.
The Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission has a website with recipes, nutritional info and little known facts about sweet potatoes. The whole yam thing has been a source of confusion for me. According to the website, Louisiana Sweet Potatoes are called yams. Our sweet potatoes here are creamier and softer. The other day I got some of my first Louisiana Sweet Potatoes from Momma. I baked them, and I sat down to eat the first one with butter. OMG .. it was so sweet. I immediately called my sister and asked where she bought these delicacies. That’s why I drove out to get them. There is an ongoing battle over who has the best sweet potato – Mississippi or Louisiana. I’m baking some of mine right now. If it tastes the same as the ones I had the other day, my vote goes to Louisiana. But, then again, it would be a yam. So, maybe Mississippi has the best sweet potatoes, but Louisiana has the best yams. That way, everybody can be a winner. I have to tell you, it doesn’t really matter, when I’m eating sweet potatoes … or yams … or sweet taters … they are good for me, they taste good and they’re cheap. Everybody’s a winner anyway with that combo.
Oh, yeah, and Tiffany is sold on sweet potatoes. She may have only bought a half a box, but she’s all in on the sweet potato addiction. She told me that they grilled some whole sweet potatoes on the grill last night. She said they were so good that they were all talking about how they tasted like cake. She said, “They are like crack.” We joked about having to go to a 12 Step Meeting for our Sweet Potato Addiction. I guess it could be Yams Anonymous. But, I’m not quitting yet. I’ve got a lot more sweet potatoes to eat, a few more Sweet Potato festivals to attend, and many more recipes to try before I give it up. In my opinion, it is the most perfect food. Just call me the Sweet Potato Queen.