After my Mom married my Vegan Stepfather, a steadfast tradition was born. It involved going around the table during special-occasion meals for everyone to take turns saying nice things--either what we loved most about the person-of-honor (Birthdays), what we were grateful for (Thanksgiving), or what inspiring thing we learned (every single other time we ate together, ever). They meant well (I do love the sentiment) but as a teenager this was somewhat hateful. Not only did the food always get cold, but what 13-year-old likes being put on the spot?
**Backstory Alert: During this time my Mom and VSF ran a pretty huge personal development business that involved lots of travel. They were home much less than they were away (that's probably why they were hungry to create meaningful memories in the rare times we were all together as a family). While we stayed home with a (usually unstable) nanny, they worked and traveled with an entourage of staff, a mostly normal/lovely bunch comprised of many tried-and-true loyalists and a handful of newbies who circulated in and out, revolving-door-style. This entourage was around A LOT. All this to say: it was not uncommon to play the around-the-table game with loads of people at their frequent work-related dinners. Inevitably someone would cry during their turn and this really upped the ante for everyone else. And it sucked being one of the unlucky souls to go last; it was like grasping at straws to not repeat something nice that had already been said ("Um...I'm also so grateful for my health!"). Or try coming up with a brilliant nugget when you're dragged to a Birthday dinner honoring a brand new entourage joiner ("Congrats on your toupee being hardly noticeable!").
You'd think that particular incident (or much of my childhood, for that matter) would've scarred me for life but now that I'm a grown-up, I adore Thanksgiving. It's my most favorite. There are no presents to buy, it's just about gratitude and togetherness and food and family. I have, however, created some new rules for myself:
1. Food is eaten hot
2. Turkey is happening
3. Gratitude is imperative yet personal
Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole
recipe from Epicurious
This is so freaking decadent. Plus the topping has CORN FLAKES in it. Genius. Do yourself a favor and remain in denial about the copious amounts of butter and sugar here. It a Holiday, right?:)
22 oz. red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 1" pieces
6 T unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
6 T sugar
1 t pumpkin pie spice
pinch sea salt
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 T unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer and add the butter, pumpkin pie spice, salt and sugar. Beat until creamy. Taste for seasoning and then add the egg and mix well. Spread/pour the mixture into a greased 8x8 baking dish (Note: the dish can be made into advance up to this point. Cover and refrigerate and then bring to room temperature to continue.) Bake uncovered until the edges begin to brown, about 25 minutes.
Mix the cornflakes, pecans, butter and sugar until well incorporated and top the cooked sweet potatoes evenly. Bake an additional 10 minutes, uncovered, until golden brown and crisp.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! I'm so grateful for you that I'd get up and say it in front of 100 personal-development vegans!:)