Writing My Life

Now and Then


Day 24 ~ Yammy Yums!

As the channel 2 news wrapped up, I told Hubby I’d hurry to bed as soon as I posted an entry about yams on my blog. His comments about the exciting topic were less that supportive, but hey! It’s day 24, and while one of my blogging friends is writing about monkeys, I’m at least focusing upon something related to Thanksgiving!! (Although I do have a good monkey story.)

A reasonable facsimile of Mom’s famous candied yams!

About those yams – well, today I worked in the office – as opposed to visiting schools – and overheard a discussion about an item on my colleague’s Thanksgiving menu: candied yams. Suddenly, I lost all interest in solving the problems of an online writing program as I listened to Lucy share the directions for candying yams.

While this intriguing topic doesn’t perk the interest of many people, it caught my attention because the description of her mom’s candied yams sounded like OUR Thanksgiving side-dish! This was startling because I have NEVER heard of any family who cooks up these tubers like my mom does.

A Google search will bring up recipes for candied yams, and I imagine that if I looked long and hard enough, I MIGHT find something close. But that hasn’t happened yet. The recipes I’ve found pale in comparison to Mom’s NON-recipe because they suggest that you candy the yams in the oven, or that you use CANNED yams – yucky! Every one also included melting marshmallows on top – no, No, NO!!! (I realize marshmallows and yams are a big part of many traditional turkey dinners, but NOT ours!)

Nevertheless, there was Lucy chattering away about how you precook the yams first, and then you peel them. Next, you melt butter over low heat in a large frying pan and add TONS of brown sugar until it dissolves into a RICH, caramel-like syrup – only REALLY thick. Finally, you place the sliced yams into the mixture and slowly coat each piece.

How could this be? I thought our yams were a deep, dark family secret as safely kept as the Colonel’s recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I couldn’t believe it! For years, I watched Dad carve the turkey while Mom slathered chunks of yams with the gooey substance mere minutes before we sat down to chow down. It was the LAST completed dish and one of, if not THE, favorite part of the entire meal. And now I questioned the originality of Mom’s NONrecipe for FAMOUS candied yams. I just assumed the dish was her creation alone because NO ONE ever served them to me – EVER!!!

But there it was. Evidence that sometime back in the 1940s or 50s a recipe for super sugary candied yams circulated neighborhoods, churches, and the food sections of newspapers. While others moved onto easier recipes – ones you could whip up in advance – our family – okay, AND Lucy’s, too – have hung onto the yummiest yam fixin’s in the world!


More than Soup! Thankful for Past Yummies!

If anyone tried to read the one sentence I posted last night, don’t fear! I was NOT tipsy! In an effort to post every day, I had to go to my phone as I had no Internet access! I am babysitting the grandchildren over the weekend, and the computer is in the oldest daughter’s room – not a great location!! Anyway, I felt it more important that the 10-year-old get her sleep than Gramma post her 13th entry!

I thought I might be able to create an entire post on my G1 phone – HA! The tiny screen, the itty-bitty font, and the miniature keys created too monstrous a challenge. So I settled for 1 ungrammatical sentence that I tried and tried to revise and edit, only to make it worse. Instead I clicked on the Lilliputian send key and called it good.

BUT, I did write out my blog so I could post it today while the little ones napped. I am sure that there are some foods that take you back to your childhood as a few dishes Mom or Dad created take me back to mine.

The 2 most memorable ones Daddy created were as follows:

  • Homemade doughnuts AND doughnut holes! Scrumptious!
  • Cocoa (not hot chocolate) and marshmallows that Connie and I drank from the ceramic elephant cups that Mom created. I didn’t like cocoa without marshmallows because scum would coagulate across the top. Yukky!

Mom whipped up LOTS of great food as she was a wonderful cook, but these are the those that whip up the memories:

  • Fudge that she always made on Sunday nights. I remember watching her stir that concoction for HOURS – well, it seemed like hours – until it had just the perfect gloss! We always ate it with popcorn that was popped in the old pressure cooker pot – a heavy, cast-iron type thing that either Mom or Dad shook over the plate on the stove. And then, we’d settle down in front of our black and white console TV to watch Kennecott Neighborhood Theater that we received via cable from Salt Lake City. Of course, the popcorn and fudge treat was not complete without Dad’s favorite drink of choice: Coca Cola!
  • Mom’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies required refrigeration. So after she mixed the ingredients, she slapped the dough onto rectangles of wax paper, rolled them up and squared them off – so the elongated rolls wouldn’t … well, roll. It’s a wonder that cookies were ever baked because one of the sneaky bad habits I had was to slice off the tiniest sliver – at least a dozen or more! I think Mom and sometimes Dad did the same thing.
  • Ham and bean soup was another favorite. Mom usually fixed this meal after we enjoyed a ham dinner – which wasn’t all that often. She’d soak the small white navy beans and simmer the ham-bone with a few vegetables and seasonings until the liquid cooked down to a delicious broth. I don’t know if I offended her when I added ketchup to my soup, but to me, that added ingredient created a masterpiece.
  • Mom also created a terrific mustard ring to eat with ham on New Year’s Day. It was sweet and tangy and also included horse radish.
  • Another miscellaneous yummy included her ketchup and crab chip dip. I know it also included horseradish and lemon, but I’m not sure what else.

Other than the mustard ring and the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, I don’t think Mom used a recipe for the others. Perhaps she made them so often that the ingredients and steps were permanently embedded into her brain, but I don’t remember watching her check over a recipe card or open a recipe book when she created these favorites.

I tried to replicate the dip and the soup and while the result was satisfactory, I can’t say that it measured up to what I enjoyed on lazy Sunday nights or wintery Saturday mornings or New Year’s Day. Memories are always the most important ingredient in conjuring up the delight found in a delicious meal from the past, but those same memories diminish the perfection we seek in re-creating that experience.