For Thanksgiving this year, I did my best to replicate my mama’s sweet potato pie.
I haven’t tried to make one since she walked me through the process about a year before she died.
With every passing holiday since her death, I simply could not bring myself to attempt to make one of mama’s sweet potato pies because the whole thing was too much of a reminder that she was gone.
So, I retired that dessert from our holiday menu and, in the interim, lost the instructions—which I wrote down the last time we made one together.
Remember, Mama was a southern girl, her recipes are in the etheric, so there had been no written recipe.
Mama cooked everything ‘by heart’; or should I say ‘soul.’
Yes, loves, my hastily written instructions were lost to the annals of time.
Ah, but this year, I decided to un-retire that pie and consult the ethers for guidance.
Of course, I know that there is no such word as un-retire, but I’ll bet you know what I mean.
You see, I simply woke up one morning and said, I’m going to try to make mama’s sweet potato pie.
Well, that idea fell flat nearly as soon as it had arisen.
There was a major problem.
I didn’t have the nutmeg.
I thought to myself, “No Nutmeg? Aw hell—this ain’t gon’ work.”
So why was this a problem?
Because my mama was a simple cook. She used very basic ingredients, and, in her world, nutmeg in a sweet potato pie is a MUST!
And I had NONE!
So much for all that smack I talked about being ready and prepared for your holiday meals!
But I refuse to be so hard on myself.
Basically, my idea to bake mama’s sweet potato pie was very much a ‘last minute’ thing.
So, what do you do when you don’t have any nutmeg?
Go buy some.
But wait, here’s the kicker!
When I went to the store to buy nutmeg, they were out.
They had NONE!
I forgot to mention that it was the day BEFORE Thanksgiving…and what with the supply chain and all…
The closest thing I could find to nutmeg was pumpkin spice.
Now, you best believe that my Black southern Mama gave me a seriously shady ‘side-eye’ from heavenly realms.
Sensing Mama’s ‘thoughts’ on the matter, I hesitated.
Then I commenced to buy that damned pumpkin spice.
Fun fact, I had never tasted pumpkin spice in all the days of my life!
But after a closer look at the ingredients, I noted that it contained: cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Mama never used cinnamon and ginger in her pies, but there was nutmeg present.
Still, I hesitated.
“This is not going to be Mama’s sweet potato pie,” I thought.
And in that moment, I could ‘hear’my Mama saying, “Ba, don’t worry about that, just use the pumpkin spice if that’s all you can find.”
For Mama knows, in Heaven, as she did on Earth, how type-A I can be when it comes to following directions, rules, traditions and such.
SIDE NOTE: My Mom and Dad always called each other, me, and my brother, ‘Ba’—pronounced the same way that kids today pronounce ‘Bae.’
See how easily I can get sidetracked?
Anyway, it was time to start on the pie.
All in all, I pretty much stuck to Mama’s ‘recipe’ by adding butter, white sugar, vanilla and evaporated milk to a couple of baked sweet potatoes—again, my only variance was the pumpkin spice.
Now, I warn you, mama’s sweet potato pie seems simple, but, alas, it is not.
My son calls it “labor intensive.”
To put it bluntly, you’ve got to get the strings out.
In essence, Mama taught me to use a mixer to de-string the sweet potatoes.
In case you didn’t know, sweet potatoes are notoriously filled with fibrous strings!
Trust me, this part takes some time.
As a matter of fact, back in the day, it was not unusual for Mama to run that mixer through her sweet potatoes several times before they were smooth enough to meet her standards.
Now, if you ask me–and I will assume that you are asking me–most people who say they hate sweet potato pie probably ate some that was prepared by someone who did NOT de-string it!
It ain’t nothing worse than a stringy sweet potato pie.
Again, I did everything I was supposed to do to make Mama’s sweet potato pie—save adding pumpkin spice—and it turned out to be damned good!
But I guarantee you this, though it was ‘inspired,’ it was not Mama’s sweet potato pie.
It was mine.
And next year, Mama, I’ll have nutmeg.
I miss you Ma!
A video about coping with loss during the holidays