For some people, the ideal Thanksgiving involves turkey, stuffing and dinner with your loved ones. For me, the ideal Thanksgiving dinner is simply one that is held at someone else’s house.
Of course my mother taught me that you can’t go to someone’s Thanksgiving dinner empty-handed, so I always offer to make something. And naturally, I have my signature dish: sweet potato pie. My sweet potato pie is a super-rich, sugar-laden concoction disguised as a side dish, with enough maple syrup and brown sugar in it to put a diabetic whale into shock. And if all that isn’t enough to insure a sugar-induced seizure, the entire top of the pie is layered with marshmallows. This recipe was handed down orally in my family from generation to generation, adding more marshmallows and brown sugar along the way, until the sweet potato pie arrived in its present, waist-busting, button-popping, cholesterol-raising, off-the-charts-calorie form that it is today.
Since I grew up eating this particular kind of sweet potato pie every year, I always assumed that this was the gold standard for sweet potato pie around the world. This being the case, when my husband and I attended the first Thanksgiving dinner of our marriage that wasn’t with my side of the family, I didn’t offer to bring my sweet potato pie. But when we sat down to dinner, I had a not-so-sweet surprise.
“Where are the marshmallows?” I whispered under my breath to my husband.
“On the sweet potato pie,” I explained.
“There are no marshmallows,” he said.
“I see that. Why are there no marshmallows?”
“We don’t use marshmallows,” he informed me.
“WE do use marshmallows,” I informed him, pointing to he and me. “Whoever made this sweet potato pie is not WE and they did not use marshmallows.”
He glowered at me. “It’s good this way. Try it. Your ears won’t ring and your head won’t buzz after you eat it.”
“I like it when my head buzzes and my ears ring, and I like MY sweet potato pie.”
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“So bring YOUR sweet potato pie.”
“I would have, if I had known,” I huffed. “But no one told me that that this was a marshmallow-free sweet potato pie zone!”
Sensing a major inter-family issue rising, he did what any new husband would do. He got up, took his plate, and changed seats.
When we got home, I made my sweet potato pie and, because it was just the two of us, we had sweet potato pie every night for a week.
Two dress sizes later, I decided I was good for that year.
Many sweet potato pie-less Thanksgivings later, I finally decided to be proactive about my yams.
“We had this sweet potato pie tradition when I was growing up that I really liked,” I tentatively told my hostess. “Would it be OK if I made one and brought it to dinner.”
“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “I’m sure it’s great!”
Excited to introduce a whole new segment of the sweet potato pie-deprived population to my version, I made two. When it was time to eat, I shoved the pies into the oven to brown and melt the marshmallows. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the oven was on broil, not bake, and within minutes, smoke poured out of the oven as the marshmallows ignited, swelled, and finally, popped.
Melted marshmallow covered the walls, door and top of the oven. The air was singed with the sickeningly sweet smell of charred Fluff. And the sweet potato pies, themselves, were a blackened mess.
I was devastated.
“I bet if we scrape the burnt marshmallow off, it’s still good underneath,” suggested my gracious hostess whose oven I had just wallpapered in taffy.
While I contemplated this solution, my daughter peeked around the corner and spied the whole debacle.
She looked up brightly. “S’mores?”
©2008, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at www.lostinsuburbia.net, and check out her hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan” at Amazon and www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com