17 November 2007

I was born in an old boarding house

If you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I will say Christmas. It's not a lie; I love all the baking and gift giving and, God help me, carol-singing. But if there is a holiday that I love almost as much as Christmas, it's Thanksgiving. It's got it all! Cool weather (not this year), family, and best of all, tables and tables of food. I am a fan of any holiday which revolves primarily around being a glutton, and T-day fits the bill. Despite my misgivings about Pilgrims and genocide and canned cranberry jelly, I am here to say: I love the shit out of Thanksgiving, y'all.

My mom's family tries to get together every year for at least Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year, we're having a family reunion for Thanksgiving. I can already predict that we will have a roasted turkey, a fried turkey, and a ham, that the desserts will flow like the River of Life, and that we will all gang up on my grandfather and make him sing the Tater Pie song.

You see, my mom's side of the family is not what anyone would call vocally talented. As a group, we could probably audition for American Idol and be one of those acts who's brought back during the finale to be humiliated some more. We. Cannot. Sing. But that doesn't stop us from cajoling, bribing or downright threatening the Callahan patriarch into singing the Tater Pie song. The holiday just isn't the holiday without it, and no sweet potatoes can be consumed without the blessing of the Tater Pie song. It goes like this:

Well, I was born in an old boarding house
And they fed me on cold tater pie
I thought to myself
Surely I would die
Choked to death on that cold tater pie

Tater Pie (Tater Pie)
Tater Pie (Tater Pie)
Choked to death on
That cold Tater Pie

That's it. That's the whole song. And believe me when I say that when my grandfather sings it (with the kids and grandkids [and now, great-grandkids] as backup), it sounds like nothing so much as an alley full of feral cats, howling about yams. It's not pretty, people.

But the song is important, because without the song it just wouldn't be a holiday feast, and without the feast, we couldn't have Sweet Potato Souffle. Sweet Potato Souffle was a recipe some member of my family cribbed off of some Southern cookbook long ago, and it has been our constant and faithful companion, lo these many years hence. It is fantastic: light and fluffy, sweet but not rich. I personally am not a fan of drowning sweet potatoes, who have never done anything to anyone except provide them with excellent nutritional value at half the carb-price, in a purgatory of mini-marshmallows, which is why Sweet Potato Souffle is so appealing to me. Plus, this is the dish that my aunt Gina makes every year (Aunt Gina: Friendly and Great At Math. Not So Much With The Cooking, Though.), so you know it's pretty much impossible to fuck up. Try making it for yourself this holiday season!

Sweet Potato Souffle


4 large sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 stick butter

For Topping:

1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. all-purpose flour

1) Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour. (Make sure you bake them on a pan/wrapped in foil so that the sugar doesn't drip all over your oven.) Let cool enough to peel skin off.

2) Mash sweet potatoes with ricer/fists of vengeance.

3) Add butter, vanilla, eggs, sugar and milk. Beat well until light and fluffy.

4) Pour into buttered casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

-Meanwhile, back at the lab-

5) Mix topping ingredients together; toss to make sure everything is well-coated.

6) Spread over sweet potatoes. Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until firm.

et, voila! Simple, easy and delicious! Find an octogenarian to sing you the Tater Pie song and dig in!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know this song. My grandfather used to sing it to my mother and she sang it to me. I sure wish I knew the whole song. Surely it was recorded somewhere.