Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

November 27, 2011

Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving
We had Thanksgiving here, but no vacation days. We did have
a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving with some friends of ours, R. and J.  He is an important person in the Consulate
here in Shanghai. We and some others gathered around their large round
table in their beautiful apartment on the 33rd floor. The view was
spectacular. I should explain that the best shape for a table in China is
round. The food is usually served family style, with the dishes placed on a
lazy susan that rotates so everyone can get all the dishes. The lazy susan didn’t
work in this case because the American size platters were too big to allow all
the dishes to be on the outside edge.
The Chinese cook made the turkey taste better than most
turkeys in America. He also positioned the meat perfectly on the platters. He
even cut each piece of skin to look beautiful on each piece of meat. This is
hard, because the skin slides off the slices when you cut them. He hand cut a
long thin piece of skin separately and placed it at the edge of the slice. The
meat was more tender because he only cooked the turkey for two hours, and he
turned it over during cooking. I’m not sure if the stuffing was inside the
turkey. Probably not. I think we tend to overcook turkeys in America, which
makes them dryer.
On Saturday, Dad and I went to another Thanksgiving with the
empty nesters in our branch. I actually got that started with an email to all
of us without children at home. Our branch president and his wife offered to
have it at their house instead of a restaurant. They ordered two turkeys with
the fixins, and everybody chipped in to pay for it. We each brought side dishes
or desserts and had a lovely dinner. Around here, turkeys are not easy to get.
Duck is the more common bird. Duck is dark meat, so it is moister. In order to
get turkey, some people have gone to extraordinary lengths. Our branch
president’s wife piled all five children and a dog kennel in her van many years
ago and drove an hour and a half outside Shanghai to buy a live turkey for
their dinner. It took forever to find the farm, get a permission form to buy
the turkey, and then bring it home. By the time they got home, the children had
named the turkey and decided who got to sleep with it first. They cried when
they took it to the butcher, and didn’t want to eat their Thanksgiving turkey!
She says “be grateful for that packaged turkey at the grocery store!”
The potatoes here are exactly as Mark described them in Peru.
The regular potatoes are yellow, and a slightly different consistency than
ours. I’d like to try smashed potatoes. They might work better, like red
potatoes back in the U.S. We also have sweet potatoes, which aren’t as orange
as the ones in the states. And we have the dark purplish yams, also.
Interesting! There is an ex Navy British author named Gavin Menzies who claims
that in 1421 a huge Chinese expedition circumnavigated the globe. He says one
of the ships wrecked off Peru, and there are many Chinese artifacts and place
names there. Who knows—if it is true, maybe they took their potatoes with them
to Peru! Dad says the jury is still out on the Menzies idea, but it is still
interesting. Menzies now claims the Lost City of Atlantis is real. Might be too farfetched.
Speaking of sweet potatoes, when we lived in Atlanta I tasted
a sweet potato casserole that I loved. It was halfway between a casserole and a
carrot cake.  I don’t know if you
remember, but for many years I would experiment every Thanksgiving to try to
replicate that sweet potato casserole. It had shredded sweet potatoes, and
flour, but not eggs, I thought. I tried, but I was never successful. The sweet
potatoes would be hard, or dry, or tasteless every time–until this week. I
have Great Grandma Randall’s recipe for carrot pudding, which is steamed
instead of baked or boiled. It uses shredded potatoes and carrots, flour,
spices, but no eggs. I brought the recipe with me because it is one of the only
desserts I could make without an oven. I had a brainstorm. What if I replaced
the white potatoes with sweet potatoes? Then it would be a sweet potato dish I
could take to Thanksgiving. It’s kind of hard for me to cook very well in my
little kitchen without many pots and the foods we are used to, so I was excited
at the thought of being able to make something good. I made the sweet potato
casserole using grandma’s old recipe, and it was wonderful! I think I finally
found the recipe I searched for all these years—and it was already in my recipe
box. I guess many things in life are like that elusive recipe. We search for
them for years, only to find that we had the secret all along, stuck away on a

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marcy Howes
    Nov 28, 2011 @ 08:29:24


    I was just this afternoon reading the book “Seven Miracles That Saved America” by Chris Stewart and Ted Stewart. They write that the first miracle of Christopher Columbus discovering the new world was partly possible because the Chinese Emperor, Zhu Gaozhi, had no interest in continuing his father, Emperor Zhu Di’s world explorations. Some say that some of Zhu Di’s Treasure Fleet of 250 giant ships sailed around the world between 1421 and 1423. It was something I had never before heard, and then I came and read your post. Interesting.

    How exciting for you and Jeff to be living in China! Would you share your mailing address with me? It was fun reading about your Thanksgiving Dinners and your sweet potato casserole/pudding. I just may try it!

    Thanks for sharing your blog.


    • admin
      Nov 29, 2011 @ 09:45:58

      Hi Marcy,
      I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and that all your children could be there. Our address is: 688 XIZANG NAN LU, BLDG 17, APARTMENT 1801, SHANGHAI, CHINA 200021. It is good to also print this address in characters, and tape it to the letter, because the local post office has a hard time reading the Pinyin.
      If you’re ever in Shanghai, come and stay with us!