Sweet Potatoes, the Red Cook, and Dim Sum
An old Story about Sweet Potatoes
Growing up, I occasionally heard stories from my Mother or Grandmother about the war in Japan. They were living in Tokyo and my Grandfather, a school principal with English fluency had been dispatched to Burma. Soon, my Grandma needed to get her girls out of the city as fears of bombs grew more imminent. They went north, far north. Over the years we heard the stories and revisited them at various times in our growing up. As we grew older, we grew to appreciate different aspects of the stories and were also told more detailed versions of them. I learned about things they and other members of the family had to endure. I think of the tracing and re-tracing of that history in the shape of an unwinding spring; each coil overlapping somewhat on the old, but expanding as time goes on.
At one point, the family was so poor and hungry my resourceful grandmother (who also bartered their “city clothes” with the locals and took apart and re-sewed garments as needed) managed to finagle a small plot of dirt from some monks. She grew sweet potatoes to feed her girls and their cousin who had also come to be in her care. (War time is a lousy time to lose a husband to drink as my cousin’s Mother had or to overseas assignments as my Grandma had.)
My Grandmother regretted few things in her life as near as I could tell. Just wasn’t the type to waste time on them. One thing I do recall her regretting was that she only had sweet potatoes and the occasional dandelion greens she could find, to feed her nephew and daughters. She feared their health was compromised because she couldn’t do better. She was sure her nephew would never eat another one his whole life and was probably scarred by the experience.
Years later, when I got the opportunity to travel back to Japan with my Mother, I asked my cousin, now a grown man and not seeming any worse for wear, if he had any aversion to sweet potatoes. He looked puzzled and couldn’t imagine why I asked about such a random thing. Nope, he likes them just fine.
I’m pretty sure she was shocked to learn this but I can’t remember. I know my Mother eats them but can’t stand dandelion greens. Couldn’t believe it when they became chic foodie fare.
New Friends, Dim Sum, and what else? Sweet Potatoes!
I recently had the pleasure of meeting my Foodbuzz fellow publisher, KianLam Kho, of RedCook.net. We shared dim sum in New York’s Chinatown and I found renewed pleasure in a meal that is referred to as “a taste of the heart.” Kian and I shared our dumplings, our stories, our writing and cooking delights and challenges. We laughed at our American ways and shared some cross-cultural experiences, too. I also learned that he was interviewed by the Haphazard Gourmet Girls for their Banned Book Food Pairings event. What a fantastic idea. You must read some of those entries.
Kian wrote about sweet potato rice porridge, which I didn’t know until just now. I swear. What a wonderful full circle – new friends, coast to coast and the comfort of food – dim sum or sweet potatoes.
I adore sweet potatoes and made a new recipe the other day.
The boiled sweets were mashed with softened and pureed thyme-scented onions, pulled together with a bit of butter. The resulting sweet and savory, nutty thyme-scented mash was heavenly. To me. My two dinner companions were adamant that onions do not belong in their sweet potatoes. Poor spuds, forever typecast in cloyingly roles along side marshmallows and such.
Please read Kian’s entry on the Haphazard Gourmet Girls’ site here, and do also visit Kian’s site Red Cook. It’s a visual and culinary treat. You will drool over the food. Promise.
Finally, with Thanksgiving approaching, I do hope you’ll consider allowing our friend – the sweet potato – to play an expanded role at your table. If you’re really excited about keeping ’em sweet, then try my killer sweets. They never disappoint.
Measuring spoons for reference
Can you believe the size of these guys?
Sweet potatoes are in the farmer’s markets now. They are a nutritional powerhouse which explains why Kinya is healthy as can be when so much of his early years’ diet was dominated by the humble sweet potato.
Behold the nutritional giant’s benefits:
- 2X the RDA of Vitamin A,
- almost half the RDA of Vitamin C,
- 4X the RDA for beta carotene,
- eaten with the skin (buy organic and just give it a good scrub) – more fiber than oatmeal,
- good source of: copper, potassium, Vitamin B6 and manganese.
- contains protein, iron,
- highly anti-inflammatory and very low in fat/cholesterol,
- a medium sweet potato delivers all this for only 130 calories.
Sweet potatoes also have a really low glycemic index, meaning they digest slowly avoiding the spikes in blood sugar other carbs produce. As long as you avoid the sugar, marshmallows and such, they’re also pretty low in calories.