Enter the magical world of sweet potatoes, the tuber that starts out on a vine and belongs to the morning glory family. Exploring and welcoming nostalgia are the keys to devouring the oblong joy.
First, we must have a chat about yams. Thanks to the government agency that manages agriculture, Americans are in a constant state of confusion because sellers use the word yam to seduce sweet potato buyers. In April McGreger‘s cookbook Sweet Potatoes, she says that “in the 1930s when the USDA allowed Louisiana to brand the moist, bright orange Puerto Rican variety of sweet potato as a yam, Louisiana hoped to distinguish its sweet potato from the then prevalent paler, drier varieties grown in Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.” Now, we are still holding on to the wrong noun. Most African diaspora yams are enormous and will sometimes be already cut and with flesh visible. They are not kin to the Southern standout and belong to another flower plant species.
Tunde Wey a Nigerian-born, New Orleans-based chef/writer has a relationship with both tubers, and says, “I ate both in Lagos.” My personal memory of sweet potatoes centers around pies and other dessert recipes, but the ‘zine cookbook Short Stacks, Volume 6 exposed me to so much more. Move over candied sweet potatoes and make room for twice-baked sweet potatoes with tahini. Start dreaming!