We often associate Thanksgiving dinner with foods like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and other traditional foods that our families enjoy. But in truth, the holiday isn’t really about the foods themselves, but about the memories and connections linked with each treasured dish. What’s more, not every American family’s table is laden with the same foods on November 25th, and some negotiation is often needed when families combine for the celebration.
When we get married, have children, and start Thanksgiving traditions with our own families, we are often faced with choices about where to celebrate, how to celebrate, and with whom to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. Sometimes, those same choices push us to define the meaning of our own celebrations, memories, and the dishes that tie us to them.
Sweet potato pie was always my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner when I was growing up. The recipe had been exchanged via a chain of friends and family till it arrived at my mom, and we were all absolutely in love with it! Year in and year out, our family continued the same traditional cherished menu each Thanksgiving. I just assumed that sweet potato pie was part of every American family’s November feast.
That first Thanksgiving with my new husband’s Andrew’s family something was missing for me, despite the warm family and new, exciting dishes. I found I needed to reconcile different family traditions, especially in this most traditional and family-oriented holiday. We have learned to merge our traditions over the years, including finding a place at the table for my beloved sweet potato pie, which is now also one of their favorite side dishes.
While I have eaten many delectable foods at the Thanksgiving holiday, including some new ones that Andrew’s mom and I have created and added to our table over the years, when I close my eyes and take a bite of the piping hot, sweet and creamy sweet potato pie, lightly scented with nutmeg and cinnamon, I am carried back to my childhood, my family, and all those celebrations we had at our dining room table years ago.
What kinds of traditions are you starting with your children at Thanksgiving? Are there certain dishes that you just couldn’t imagine going without when celebrating the holiday?
Recipe: Sweet Potato Pie
The perfect pie for your Thanksgiving dinner.
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 3 medium sweet potatoes
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon or 1/4 tsp. of each
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. sugar or honey
- 1/4 cup nonfat or low fat milk
- 1 prepared pie crust, or make your own (see directions below)
- Remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften it. In a medium pot, bring enough water to cover the potatoes to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into large cubes, and add them to the heating water and boil for 15 – 20 minutes until they are fork tender. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Drain the potatoes thoroughly and put them in a large bowl (alternatively, use an electric mixer). Mash the sweet potatoes with the butter and all the remaining ingredients except the crust. Whip the mixture until it is mostly smooth. (At this point, you can refrigerate the filling for up to 48 hours).
- Spoon the sweet potatoes into the crust and bake it for an hour (or up to 1 1/2 hours if you like a browner top). Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving it.
To make your own 20 minute pie crust: Combine 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl. With two forks, cut 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. butter or Crisco into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, over the pastry mixture, tossing lightly with the fork after each addition and sprinkling only the dry portion. Pastry should be just moist enough to hold together, but not sticky. With a large piece of waxed paper underneath and on top of the dough so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin, roll the dough into a circular shape. Lift off the top piece of wax paper, and flip the dough into a pie plate, gently pressing it into the plate and removing the waxed paper. With your fingers, flute the crust to the rim of the pie plate to adhere it. Trim the edges with a paring knife and patch the crust if needed. Refrigerate the crust until you are ready to fill it.