This is the story about one of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving foods. When I was a child, I hated sweet potatoes… to the point of gagging on them, but my father’s rule was you could not leave the table until you had eaten everything on your plate, and you had to eat some of everything served at each meal. I always hated this rule and vowed that when I grew up and had children there would be no such rule in my house, and I’ve stuck to it. When my girls were small and it was our year to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, his mother would always serve a sweet potato casserole.
Now this woman was the best cook I had ever met and everything she made was wonderful, but when it came to sweet potatoes, I just could not make myself even try them. And, much to their delight, I would not make my girls eat them either. No amount of coaxing from other family members would get us to try the sweet potato casserole my mother-in-law had lovingly made as part of her Thanksgiving meal. Everybody else loved it, but we would not eat the “yucky brown stuff”. “Oh well, more for us” was the general attitude of the others.
This went on for years. Then one year it was just myself and my brother-in-law left at the table and he was having his second or third helping of sweet potato casserole when the urge to try it came over me. I don’t know why, after all that time, I decided to taste it, but I did and that was the best thing I had tasted in a long time! I couldn’t believe it. I told my girls they needed to try it…it was nothing like we thought it would be. They tried it and felt the same way I did. All those years we could have been enjoying the sweet potato casserole too. From that point on, she had to make two casseroles in order to have enough for everybody. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too many years later that her health prevented her from cooking her usual big Thanksgiving meals and I had to learn how to make the “yucky brown stuff”.
I have the recipe written down, as she told it to me over the telephone, the first year I was doing Thanksgiving at my house and she would not be here to direct me. The secret, she said, was to use an electric mixer to beat the cooked sweet potatoes and don’t scrape the beaters…all the strings would get caught on the beaters and not end up in the casserole. We have concluded that it is the texture/strings in the sweet potatoes, more so than the taste, that is what we didn’t like about them. Anyway, now every Thanksgiving we must have “yucky brown stuff”. And whenever anyone new to the family asks what it is, they have to hear the story of how we would never try MamaRuth’s sweet potato casserole, referring to it as that “yucky brown stuff”, until one day we did try it and have loved it ever sense. I will tell you how to make it, but there isn’t an exact recipe…it depends on how many potatoes you use.
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