Sweet potato casserole
Sweet potato casserole flavored with cider, orange, and maple.
For most of my childhood, we spent Thanksgiving with my family in Arkansas. It was always a big, loud, boisterous gathering of family we didn’t see nearly enough. For many of these years, my brother and I were the oldest of the kids, so we got to sit at the grown-up table, which made us feel very special. After the meal, the men would go watch the ball game and the women would sit out on the sun porch, talking and gossiping and telling funny stories. It always made me feel sophisticated sitting out there, though I generally had no idea what anyone was talking about. I remember the food too, of course. We had all the standards, turkey and gravy, cornbread dressing with lots of seasoning that was always served cut in squares. We had green beans and a cranberry gelatin dish with pecans that I loved and haven’t had in years. And of course, sweet potato casserole with the jumbo marshmallows melted to a gooey, golden brown topping. As we all grew up, some married, some moved and time and tradition moved on, as they always do.Skip to next paragraph
The Runaway Spoon
Perre Magness has studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France has broadened her own culinary skill and palate. The kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.
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My immediate family spent a few years as Thanksgiving pilgrims ourselves, wandering in the wilderness looking for a new tradition. One year my parents and I went to Rome. One year the rest my family went to North Carolina but I had to work over the weekend. I ordered myself what proved to be a disappointing meal shipped in from a high-dollar gourmet shop in New York. The first year I was in my new kitchen and house, it was just me and my parents on Thanksgiving Day, and I was determined to use the fancy new convection feature on my oven to roast the turkey. But the durn thing just would not cook, and eventually my mom and I lost patience, cut off a few slices and put them in the microwave.
After these lost years, I claimed Thanksgiving for my own. After all, it made sense that I should get the food holiday. I love doing it at my house, serving from the kitchen, the dining room at capacity, the kids table set up in the living room. My nieces and nephew help make place cards and decorations. We’ve had additional guests over the years that added so much to the holiday.
I love cooking all the food for Thanksgiving. To be honest, I only let people bring other things to be polite. They really want to help me with all that work, but I love that work. It is the one week I get to spend uninterrupted in the kitchen, with an unassailable reason to do so. I do hate the dishes though…
The food is always the same, the standards the way I like them. Turkey wrapped in its bacon blanket, gravy, dressing with chestnuts and sausage, corn pudding, cranberry sauce (two types) and sweet potatoes. Every year I say “tell me know if you hate something, cause this it what you’re getting every year.” No one has said anything really. Yet.
The tough trick for me was sweet potatoes. Before I started making them, I had not discovered what a great and versatile little tuber they are. As far as I can remember, the only way I’d ever eaten them was in the casserole at Thanksgiving. And I was never eager to eat that. Maybe I thought orange was a weird color. I would always scoop some on my plate though, mainly to eat the marshmallows off the top. So when I launched myself into the Thanksgiving sweet potato endeavor, I came up with something different, and if I may say so, really good. I love this version of sweet potato casserole, and as I said, no one has complained yet, really. My mom asks every year if she can bring something…umm, maybe sweet potato casserole? I took the hint and frankly I have told her that I know she prefers her sweet potatoes to mine, but that’s just too bad. It’s my Thanksgiving and I like them!