What Makes A Great Sweet Potato Pie?
My mother, grandmothers and aunts all made a great sweet potato pie
And every one of them had a unique recipe,
Always moist, never dry.
Of course they all used fresh Sweet Potatoes,
They each added nutmeg and cinnamon, too.
They only used pure vanilla extract,
Evaporated milk, for sure
Each pie had 2 eggs, real butter, and a teaspoon of flour
Added to the mix to set it nice and fine
And nothing could ever compare
To their pies, each so devine.
But none of their pies tasted the same
Each one with its own unique flavor
You had to have a little of each of their pies
Because each piece was a joy to savor
And now I realize more than ever
What made their pies so good
It was because each pie was made with love
A gift that lasts forever!
I'm a good cook. My family says so. My friends do, too. I also love to cook. I just don't get to do it as much as I'd like. Still, one gift I love to give my friends is a sweet potato pie. Ask anyone I've ever visited with and they will tell you, "P.K. makes a great potato pie!" Don't let my kids know that I made a sweet potato pie for another family because I have to make twice as many for them. Why? Because they know that while I may make just about anything for you if you ask, you only get one of my pies if I love you.
You know what I love? I love to leave the smell of my pie in every home that opens up to me. And I love to watch the look on the faces of those friends and family that I love, savoring that first bite, then reaching for a second piece. I don't know if I make a better pie than my mother, grandmothers or aunts, but I know that I do bake them out of love. So, maybe it's not the actual pie that I'm giving, but the symbol of what Sweet Potato pie means to me.
First, sweet potatoes are a cultural expression for me. It's a Black tradition. You don't have holiday dinners in my family without sweet potatoes of some kind. Another cultural aspect of sweet potatoes is that they are part of home and love--my mother, my grandmothers and aunts--ladies who love and loved me well. Still, it's also a reminder of another home--a home I only know in my dreams and imagination. When Africans were enslaved in this country and they saw sweet potatoes for the first time, they likened them to the Yams of the African continent. Blacks of that time looked for anything that connected them to their homelands and the dishes they made out of these sweet potatoes kept a little bit of Africa in their souls: stews, pies or just eaten with a spoon--it was something to hold onto. It was a distant memory, yet it kept our hopes alive. As a child of the Diaspora, I, too, carry these memories--distant though they are.
So, when I make a friend or family member a sweet potato pie, I'm giving them a taste of those memories. My family gets to touch those memories of our grandmothers, Miss Elaine, Miss Ethel and Big Mama Liz. They are getting a piece of the love from my aunts, Luella and Jean, both still living, and my aunts who have left this world, Ollie, Louise, and Josephine. I get to share this with friends, too, although I never realized it until now. I get to watch as my mother before me watched; those that she loved sharing her gift of love. Sweet potato pie--a symbol of my love!
[Let P.K. know if you're interested in having her make you a sweet potato pie. She lives part-time in Houston and Carmel, but she might just make one for you if you ask nice. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.]