A friend told me that one of her friends was looking for people’s favorite sweet potato pie recipe, and asked if I could share mine. The problem for me is that sweet potato pie is one of those things I learned how to make my helping one of my great-grandmothers and one thing all three of them had in common is that measuring cups were at best guidelines. They eyeballed a lot of ingredients in recipes and then adjusted as they went along. So when I make one of those recipes I tend to do it the same way. If I make biscuits from scratch, for instance, I pour some flour and butter and salt and milk (buttermilk if I have it) together and start kneading—then, depending on the texture I might add more flour, or more butter, or more milk and so on until it feels right (you add the baking powder last so it doesn’t start doing its think while you’re still mixing).
So, I’m going to describe how I make it, taking my best guess as to the relative quantities of the ingredients.
1 pie crust
2 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs plus 1 egg (or the equivalent egg whites)
1 can of evaporated milk
1/2 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-3 tablespoons molasses
1-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/8 teaspoon ginger*
*if you have pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice, just do a teaspoon of that
1. Lightly rinse the sweet potatoes, then put them in a large pot with enough water to fully immerse them. Add a pinch of salt to the water and put over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, then let it boil for at least 20 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a fork in one of the sweet potatoes. Try to push it in the full length of the tines. If the fork goes in real easy, they’re done. If it goes in a little ways easy then you feel resistance, let it keep boiling another 10 minutes, then check again.
2. Once they are done, turn off the burner and position a colander in the sink. Pour the pot out through the colander. While the potatoes are still hot turn on the cold water. Let the cold hit one of the potatoes for no more than half a minute, then move the faucet over so the water is still flowing, but not flowing on the potatoes. Pick the partially cooled one up and put it and your hands immediately under the cold water. Now start rubbing with your thumbs. The skin (and a thin, slightly darker colored layer of the potato) will simply rub off. This is infinitely easier than trying to peel them before you boil them, I assure you. Drop the peeled potato into a large mixing bowl. Pick up the second potato and do it again.
3. This is usually when I turn on the oven so it will be preheated by the time we are done with the rest.
4. With a potato masher, start mushing the potatoes. Pour in the evaporated milk, mash/stir some more, then the butter, then the sugar, then the molasses and spices.
5. Note that I have listed variable amounts of vanilla and molasses. Unfortunately, this is one of those places where I adjust. What I do at this point, is pour in (eyeballing it, not measuring) a little bit of molasses, then mix, and once it’s mixed in, if the color isn’t right, I add more. Similarly with the vanilla, I pour in about a teaspoon, then stir it around, and if it smells right, I don’t add more, but if not, I add more.
So I will suggest that you add a bit of molasses and vanilla, stir it in, and take a taste. If it tastes like sweet pie filling, then you’re good. If you think you want a little more of the molasses bite, add some. If you want more of the vanilla mellowness, add some.
6. Now, the eggs. If you’re using actual eggs, crack two of them and dump them into the filling. Then crack the third and separate the yolk from the white, and add the third yolk to the pie. Put the third egg white in a small container for later. The white will be used with the crust in a minute. If you’re using egg beaters or packages egg whites, measure out whatever they say is the equivalent of two eggs and put that the filling, then stir up.
7. Once all of those ingredients are in, set the filling aside for a few minutes to breathe. I honestly don’t know if the filling actually breathes, but that’s what Great-grandma said is happening.
8. The oven should be pre-heated by now. I usually just buy frozen pie crusts. I used to always make my own crusts from scratch (another recipe I learned from my grandmas), but honestly, I can’t taste the difference, so I don’t do that any more. Whether you made the crust yourself or are using frozen, coat the crust in its pan with the egg white reserved back at step 6 using a pastry brush (or just more eggbeaters/white from the package). With a fork, punch a bunch of holes in the bottom of the crust (if you’re using one of those aluminum pans, don’t poke through the foil!). Stick the crust in the oven for at least five minutes. You want it to dry out a little, but not to fully cook, yet.
9. Take the dried crust out of the oven, pour in the pie filling. you may have too much from your crust/pan, depending on the size of the potatoes. I like to put the excess in ramkins and cook them separately as little tarts.
10. Put the pie into the oven and cook for at least 2 hours. Check for doneness by sticking a tooth pick in. If the toothpick come clean, it’s done. If you see any of the filling clinging to the toothpick let it bake some more. I usually check at 15 minute intervals starting at the 2 hour mark.
Once it’s done, let it cool. Later, serve with whipped cream. Lots, and lots of whipped cream.
Not that we weren’t both deliriously happy to be doing it, and while we weren’t like some of those couples who had been together for more than 50 years and were finally getting to tie the knot, it wasn’t a date we had picked.
That’s just another thing that is awkward about our society’s history with queer rights. Michael mentioned that he was just recently trying to explain to a co-worker that we have several anniversaries: the anniversary of our first date (Michael and been a friend to Ray and I for more than a couple years when Ray died, so our first date was not the first time we met), the anniversary of when we moved in together, the anniversary of when we registered or domestic partnership (and we had a small party with friends), and then the wedding anniversary.
Due to cultural conditioning, the wedding date was the one that felt most dramatic. And I know that all couples have significant milestones before they officially tie the knot. But it is a very common thing, when one is meeting a new straight couple, to ask how long they’ve been married. And even if you phrase it differently, 90-some percent of the time they will respond with, “we’ve been married X-years.”
Even though marriage equality has only been existent in this state for six years (and nationwide only three), I’ve still found myself being asked by people, “How long have you been married?” And the first few times when I just said the number of years, yes, people were shocked that we had only been together such a short time. So I’ve started automatically answered, “We’ve only legally been married X years, but we were together for nearly 15 before we could get married.” And sometimes people respond to that with confusion, and then incredulity when I tell them that same sex couples couldn’t legally marry before then. Even some people who think of themselves as open-minded and supportive of gay rights don’t understand that marriage equality is a very recent thing.
Which, given all the media attention and the millions of dollars worth of anti-gay political advertising put up in each state when votes about domestic partnerships or marriage were in the works, seems a little weird. How could they miss all that Sturm und Drang?
And so, while today is our sixth anniversary, and just thinking about it and looking at all the pictures our friends took that day makes me cry, we’ve actually been together for 20 years and 10 months, or 250 months, which may explain why we finish each other’s sentences and so forth.
He’s the most wonderful man I know. I really, seriously can’t quite understand why he puts up with me, let alone loves me. But I’m eternally grateful that he does.
Happy Anniversary, Michael!
Doubling-down isn’t how you make sf/f for everyone… and being southern isn’t a license to condescend
Although I already covered some of this last Thursday (Stop digging, don’t you see how deep you already are?), another incident has come to light that makes it even more clear that there are sadly a lot of people committing one of the most classic blunders—no, not that one about going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line—no, this one is from the Nixon era: it isn’t the crime that brings you down, it’s the cover-up.
I’m speaking metaphorically, though. I am not trying to imply that anyone has committed a crime, nor that they are trying to hide it. In the case of the Silverberg incident, while there was plenty that is of the gatekeeper-y style of racism/sexism (not to mention the bigoted trope of calling any marginalized person who is being anything other than deferential “angry”) in the original offense, the real problem came when he wrote about how he isn’t racist or sexist—using racist and misogynist arguments to do so. So, the original comments could have been apologized for as thoughtless or ill-considered (and hypocritical), the denial just made the unexamined misogyny and racist presumptions undeniable.
Turns out two weekends ago at LosCon Greg Benford got himself in a similar problem. Mike Glyer at File770 has several posts with statements from several people and there’s a lot to unravel, but the upshot was that Benford made a number of dismissive comments about works written by one black woman in particular and younger-than-him women writing sf/f in general during a panel, and then during the question-and-answer portion of the panel a pro sitting in the audience tried to call him on it and there was much yelling and recrimination.
The convention staff’s inconsistent handling of the subsequent complaints from multiple people in the panel are generating a lot of pedantic argument and deflection. I don’t feel like re-litigating that, I want to focus on the dismissive words and the problems there. The topic of the panel was supposed to be to discuss who the future Grandmasters of SF/F might be. One of the statements Benford made as part of a general dismissal of a lot of stuff being written today was, “If you write sf honey, gotta get the science right.”
A lot of people are trying to defend Benford by saying that everyone else is being bigoted against southern people by taking offense. They are making the claim that “honey” is used as a polite term to address a stranger in many social circumstances in the south. And they are right to an extent, however, it is not always polite, nor is it an entirely ungendered term, as Benford’s defenders are trying to claim. Straight men in the south never use “honey” to address another man, it is always gendered. Queer men can use it either way, though straight men are quite likely to take offense if a man refers to them as honey. Women can use the term to people of any gender and often it is considered a polite form of address, but it depends on the context.
An older woman might indeed address a younger person as “honey” if they are either asking them to do something, or suggesting that the way the younger person is behaving might be inappropriate for the situation, and so forth. The younger southern person would not take offense, and neither would anyone listening. Southern culture does have a very strong strain of respecting one’s elders, for one thing; the term “honey” in this case signals a difference in social standing. But if the significantly younger person were to call the older woman “honey” in the answer, she would be affronted, and other people overhearing would all agree that the younger person was being rude. Because this is inverting the social standing: the younger person’s use of the term “honey” in such a case signals that the older person doesn’t deserve the respect ordinarily accorded to elders.
If a man uses the term to address a woman who is not a close family member or intimate partner, it also signals a difference in social standing. But depending on the context, the difference being asserted might be simply that the man believes that all women naturally must defer to him. While it might sound friendly, it’s definitely got a message of “respect your betters (and that would be me)” about it.
As another old white bearded guy from the south, I have also used the term “honey” when addressing someone who wasn’t my husband. And as a queer man, I have used it without regard to gender. But I also have had friends explain to me that it just amps up the condescension when I do that. I didn’t consciously intend it, but once it was pointed out, I realized I have to learn to stop saying it, because they are right. Not just that it sounds condescending (which it does). And also not just that it can hurt someone to be talked down to that way whether I intend it or not (which it does). But also because now I know both of those things.
So, since Benford identifies as straight man originally from the south, we can safely infer that his off-the-cuff remark was aimed solely at women writers, and that it was more of an admonishment than friendly advice. It also is a bit of classic gatekeeper BS that conveniently is never used to disqualify any science fiction written by straight white guys. Something that John Scalzi pointed out in a chuckle-worthy way:
Another of my favorite authors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, started a thread (which others contributed to) that gives more examples of science fiction written by white guys where the science is very, very wrong, but no one of Benford’s camp would ever say wasn’t sf.
Another Benford comment that was directed at a specific author is even worse: asserting that a trilogy which recently won three Hugos in a row isn’t all that because “psychic powers to control the earth and earthquakes had already been done in the fifties.” Which is another favorite gatekeeper trick to exclude people. Never mind that every one of Benford’s own books could be boiled down to a single “idea” that someone had written many years before he started being published. But that’s the nature of gatekeeping: rules are stated in a way that sound like an objective criteria, but aren’t applied to works by white straight cisgendered men.
But others have also explained that a bit better. Annalee Flower Horne did a twitter thread explaining how “the notion that ideas and tropes can never be re-used in SF and that anyone trying must be new here would be funny if it weren’t such an insidious tool of exclusion.”
But at this point I’m still just describing Benford’s original offense, and not how he dug himself even deeper into the hole. I’m not going to link to it because it’s hosted on sites that I refuse to give any support of. But his response boiled down to accusing everyone else of being too sensitive and lamenting the so-called victim culture. Ah, yes, that tired old chestnut! Every classic blunder deserves a classic racist/misogynist/homophobic dog whistle, I guess. But just to be clear: if you claim that other people are being too sensitive, all that really means is that you’re offended because you think you should be able to disrespect whoever you want and never face any consequences for it.
I didn’t do as good a job last week about explaining one aspect of why this doubling-down is not just pointless, but also ethically wrong. Fortunately, Brianne Reeves did a much better job:
You are at a playground. A gaggle of four year olds is running about. One of them is not paying attention and accidentally sends another plummeting off the equipment and into the asphalt. Suddenly, there is screaming and crying. Mothers race to the scene.
What do you do next?
You fix the wound as best you can, and the child apologizes. Not necessarily for the shove, but for the inattention. They didn’t *mean* to cause pain, but their lack of awareness meant that another is in pain.”
I mentioned above the time when a friend called me out for using the term “honey” in a condescending way. I wasn’t intending to belittle the person I was talking to, but intention isn’t an exculpatory factor. My friend was hurt by my words, and that is on me. More importantly, once I have had this explained to me, the onus also is upon me to avoid such thoughtless words again. It is tough breaking old habits, I know. I have screwed up since that was pointed out to me, but the answer isn’t to blame my friend for being overly sensitive. The onus is on me to keep trying to do better, and apologize sincerely when I mess up.
It’s also galling when a professional writer, of all people, tries to claim that words don’t matter. They do. We should take pride in taking responsibility for what we say and write.
Today is World AIDS Day. Each year, I spend part of the day remembering people I have known who left this world too soon because of that disease.
So: Frank, Mike, Tim, David, Todd, Chet, Jim, Steve, Brian, Rick, Stacy, Phil, Mark, Michael, Jerry, Walt, Charles, Thomas, Mike, Richard, Bob, Mikey, James, Lisa, Todd, Kerry, Glen, and Jack. Some of you I didn’t know for very long. One of you was a relative. One of you was one of my best friends in high school.
I miss you all. It was a privilege to know you.
The theme of 2018 for the World Aids Day campaign is “Know your status.” A huge number of people still think of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) as a gay disease, when world wide the majority of people infected are straight women and children. Various health organizations have begun recommending the HIV screening become part of routine medical tests administered to everyone, to reduce the stigma of getting tested. Particularly since we have better ways of stopping the spread of infection than in the past, and with modern treatment, being infected is no longer a guarantee of death at an early age.
But you can’t get treated if you don’t know you have it.