Yam Black and Yam Proud
Probably not two weeks could pass when, as a kid, I wasn’t served some form of sweet potato or yam at the dinner table. Usually, it was Nana, my paternal grandmother, on Sunday, serving her renown sweet potato pie, or a stewed, stove top yam dish; ofttimes my mother lovingly baked them unadorned, their star power unspoiled by an inferior supporting cast.
A few years ago my brother took a DNA test to uncover our familial origins. Because men have the XY chromosome, researchers can trace both their matrilineal and patrilineal lines. I sensed we were distinctive and I was correct – my mother’s, mother’s mother’s, mother’s, mother (give or take a generation) was Igbo from the southern portion of Nigeria.
Coincidentally, I’d held a fascination with the Igbo as a young woman because they have more live twin births than any other people in the world – I was naively convinced I wanted twins. The reason for the phenomenon is not known, but scientists have speculated the explanation may be the regular consumption of yams. The tuber is so important to Igbo culture an annual festival to celebrate the yam is held around harvest time. In his seminal work Things Fall Apart, Igbo author Chinua Achebe suggests yams represent masculinity, wealth and the ability of a man to provide for his family. To me they represent matriarchs, nurturing and the ability of a woman to sustain her family and culture. (The recipe below will not disappoint).
Sweet Potato Casserole
1/4 Organic Salted Butter
1/2 Cup Organic Agave Syrup or Raw Sugar
2 Organic Eggs
1/2 tsp Organic Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 tsp Real Salt
3/4 Cup Organic Half & Half
3/4 Cup Organic Whole Milk
2 1/2 Cups Organic Raw Sweet Potatoes
Set oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar or agave syrup. Mix in eggs, pumpkin pie spice, salt, half & half and milk. Grate sweet potatoes by hand or in a food processor, fold into liquid mixture. Pour into a shallow, 2-quart, buttered baking dish and bake for 1 hour. Serve immediately.