Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Pudding - A Twist on Tradition

Sweet Potato Pudding is the one dish that makes my Thanksgiving just right. The benchmark for the real and true holiday dinner.

While many families enjoy some form of sweet potatoes as part of their Thanksgiving meal, mine is the only family I've ever come across that prepares them with a twist.

We are not typical brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, coconut, pecan or marshmallow people when it comes to sweet potatoes. We do not boil, bake, microwave or mash them.

I suspect if we didn't have any Sweet Potato Pudding, we wouldn't have sweet potatoes at all.

My Great Aunt Martha first made this dish for us so many years ago that I don't ever remember any other sweet potato dish at our holiday meals. Every year she would walk into my grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day with one very small casserole dish of the golden orange treat we all craved. Due to the small amount she made, each individual portion amounted to about a spoonful, so we treasured and savored every delicate morsel.

No one dared ask Aunt Martha to bring, maybe, two dishes of Sweet Potato Pudding. We just assumed the preparation was so labor intensive, the ingredients so costly and rare, that we were fortunate to have just one taste at Thanksgiving and another at Christmas. We'd shake our heads in wonder, but never asked why the single dish.

Eventually, my mother and grandmother could stand it no longer and became co-keepers of the recipe, thus assuring the continuation of our treasured holiday tradition for future generations, god forbid something should happen to Aunt Martha.

That's when they discovered the answer to the unspoken question. And, indeed, there was a very good reason she never doubled her recipe.

Sweet Potato Pudding, a la Aunt Martha, was made with grated, raw sweet potatoes. Hand grated, raw sweet potatoes. Lots of hand grated raw sweet potatoes went into that single, small dish.

Now, Aunt Martha was from very sturdy stock, and lived most of her life on a farm. Hard work was certainly not anything she shied away from but, apparently, she drew the line of sacrifice at knuckles scraped raw, hands cramped and arms strained -- even for her family.

My grandmother, Beema, and my mother passed the Sweet Potato Pudding duties back and forth for all of hand-held box-graters years that followed. Sure, they made a larger recipe than Aunt Martha ever did, but they always let us know a supreme sacrifice had been made for us, as we sat down to our generously prepared two spoons of that heavenly pudding.

The advent of the Cuisinart significantly reduced the risk of raw knuckles, hand cramping and muscle strain, and increased the amount of Sweet Potato Pudding passed at our holiday table. But it is a bittersweet reward.

Our holidays are missing Aunt Martha and Beema, the people who created the tradition we still enjoy today, some 50 years later. But with each sweet bite I savor, I will always remember them, for the love and tradition they gave our family -- our very own Sweet Potato Pudding, with grated, raw sweet potatoes


Happy Thanksgiving!

AUNT MARTHA'S SWEET POTATO PUDDING
4 cups grated, raw sweet potatoes 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 eggs, beaten 
1/2 cup melted butter 
1 1/2 cups milk 
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes and sugar to mix. Add beaten eggs, melted butter, milk and nutmeg.  Pour into a heavy casserole dish and bake covered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 40 - 45 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp on top.

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1 comment:

Dianna said...

Any chance of leftovers so I can have a taste? DR