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!
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.
Now this year we do have our small chest freezer, so storing a big bird is possible—but we had to start making an effort a bit over a week ago to cook dinners exclusively from things in the freezer and refrain from buying freezable-things we found on sale at the grocery store until we made enough room in the freezer for the turkey.
But I digress… I was looking for a small turkey, when I heard a voice nearby say, “Isn’t it a bit to early to be buying a turkey?” The person wasn’t talking to me, but rather to the woman who was with him. It appeared to be a small family of like a grandpa, grandma, a mom, and two children, and the grandpa-looking guy was the one questioning their search of the turkey bins. The subsequent conversation was quite amusing to overhear: grandma and mom told him Thanksgiving was just five days away, he argued, the kids got involved. He was absolutely certain that Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November. One of them had to show him their calendar on their phone before he believed then that Thanksgiving was this week. Then he said something along the lines that he had a lot less time to get the house ready for everyone coming over.
Anyway, I wasn’t quite as bad as he was, but it was just a week previous that both Michael and I had been shocked to realize Thanksgiving was less then two weeks away. It wasn’t that we didn’t know the holiday was the fourth Thursday, simply we didn’t quite realize that much of the month was already gone.
Tomorrow it is just the two of us for Thanksgiving. Despite trying to keep the menu small, I know we will have way too much food. Still, I’m looking forward to my turkey and stuffing and sweet potato pie and all the rest. And I’m feeling quite a bit less gloomy this year than the previous two holiday seasons. Many things in the world are still very messed up, but there is more than a glimmer of hope, now.
So, here are things I’m thankful for:
- my smart, kind, sexy, super capable, funny husband
- the people who turned out and voted bue
- people who laugh and fill the world with joy
- sci fi books that tell of wonderful futures
- people who help other people
- people—often from segments of society who are always told they don’t matter/should listen to their betters/et cetera—who ran for office large and small this year
- beautiful misty grey mornings
- people who make art or stories or music
- NaNoWriMo writing buddies
- modern medical science
- people who love
- living in the future
- tweety birds and kittens and puppies and tigers and otters
- people who keep striving in spite of it all
- my crazy, sometimes infuriating relatives who probably find me even more bewildering than I ever do them
- not having to spend the holiday with (especially) the most infuriating relatives again this year
- my sweet, clever, mega-competent, long-suffering husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list twice!)
- all my wonderful friends—who are talented, kind, giving, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me even at my most dickish
Thank you, each and every one. And whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a wonderful day full of blessings, because you deserve it
I don’t have to deal with that sort of thing this week because we’re staying home again this year. And I had a lot less of it to deal with last year because we stayed home for both holidays. I drove down twice during the season to see folks and drop off Christmas presents, so I did see a lot of the extended family, but it’s different when you aren’t sitting in one place for a long time either waiting for food to cook, or more people to arrive, or whatever.
Anyway, if I were to do something like this letter, it might go something like this:
Hello, cousin/aunt/cousin-in-law I only see at holiday gatherings! It’s been too long!
As a matter of fact, no, I don’t technically live in Seattle any more, I’ve moved to a small suburb called Shoreline.
No, I still take the bus to work. It’s only four miles further from the office than my old place. I would love to talk about our new neighborhood and all the things I’m growing in my–
Yes, I am still working in the same part of the telecommunications industry that I have been for the past 31 years.
Yes, you actually use the stuff we do every day. Our products are the servers that figure out where you phone is anytime you use maps, or need to call 9-1-1, and so forth.
I’m sorry to hear about your vague problem with your very cheap Android so-called smart phone that is almost certainly running a very outdated version of Android and is loading with bloatwear. I don’t do Android. At all. I’m an Apple user.
No, that is not an iPhone. It has the name of another company printed right there in very large type. I’m sorry the salesperson at the place you went to get a cheaper phone than you could buy from your carrier (after two other cheap phones died on you this year) lied to you. You should probably go somewhere else next time.
I’m sorry to hear about your vague computer problem on your super cheap very old Windows machine that is probably infested with more malware than actual software. Can’t really help you, as I said, I’m a Mac user. You should probably stop taking it to that guy who runs the combination Pawn Shop/Smoke Shop/Computer Repair Shop and go to the place my husband recommended last year.
Yes, I voted. No, I really don’t think we should talk about it.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I do still believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, just like his birth certificate said. And no, I’m not at all glad he’s gone. I’m really sad that voter suppression and Russian interference put a person who lost the popular vote into office.
Yes, yes, I completely agree we should change the topic. Did you see the Seahawks game two weeks ago?
Since the form of this thing is a flier you could hand out to people, I decided to leave out the many times that I wind up sitting very tight-lipped awkwardly listening to someone try to explain away some real world news with very very mangled Bible references. Or the latest quack medicine/magical Bible cure someone is trying for their vague physical ailments.
At least for the last five or six years everyone has realized that talking about anything related to their opposition to gay rights or transgender people isn’t a good idea. Please note that I have been out of the closet for over 26 years and they have all met (and all seem to really like) my husband who has been coming down with me to these things for 20 years, but it took this long to decide that maybe telling us some of those things to our faces isn’t polite dinner conversation.
I am going to miss not getting a taste of Mom’s Mistake Salad (it’s a concoction of pistachio pudding and pineapple and whipped cream and I don’t remember what, that seems to contain about a million grams of sugar per spoonful, so I can literally only have a few bites, but dang it is so, so, so good!) or share and compare anyone’s attempt at making Grandma’s Frozen Cranberry Salad—for a long time we thought the recipe was lost, so several of us came up with versions of our own; Mom found an index card with the official recipe hiding in one of Grandma’s photo albums. And then when she made it, it wasn’t quite what any of us remembered, confirming our suspicion that she did never made it the same way twice.
Since it is just the two of us, Michael and I are cooking a small turkey. We’ll have stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, my Great-grandma’s creamy savory sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce, and a relish tray that will have enough pickled foods and olives to feed about 30 people.
Oh! And I plan to make the Fiery Thanksgiving Manhattan again: Rye bourbon, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and Tillen Farms’ Fire and Spice Maraschino Cherries. It will be divine!
There is a particularly pivotal scene that I have been having trouble with, and so far I have written it from three different viewpoints. In each one, I’ve also started the scene from a slightly different place. Between the second and third attempt at the scene, I flashed back, as it were, and wrote some possible set up scenes from various viewpoints of various characters getting ready for the event in question to try to figure out what wasn’t working in the scene itself.
Now, there was already part of my plan to write some different events in the book from multiple viewpoints. I show the villain coming into a situation that is already in motion and trying to deal with it. Then later I show the beginning of the sequence from the viewpoint of one of the protagonists, explaining some things that seem mysterious. There is similar thing where one of the protagonists comes in after some awful things have happened and is trying to pick up the pieces, then later I show what the villain actually did that led to the situation as this protagonist found it. That’s a specific dramatic ploy that isn’t the same thing as revisiting a scene multiple times from different viewpoints.
Anyway, it’s all valid first draft stuff. We always know that some of what we write is going to get cut later.
Completely unrelated to all of that, I wanted to note that last week we passed the 21st anniversary of my first husband’s death. This was one of the milder years, for me. Most years beginning a bit before my birthday (because I can’t think of my birthday without thinking of his, as our birthdays were only two days apart) through October and up until about the anniversary I tend to be more moody than usual and more susceptible to bouts of sadness and such. Three years ago it was a whole lot worse than average, last year it was a bit less bad than usual. I can never predict how it will go.
I really can’t say that it has steadily gotten better over the years. There have been years more than a decade ago where it was about as mild as this year. And then there are the really bad years.
I still think that part of why last year was better than usual was living in the new place. Every anniversary of Ray’s death before that, I was still living in the home we had shared when he died. So every day when I stepped out the front door I saw the climbing rose Ray had planted, for instance. There are still plenty of events and moments, and yes some things around the house, that remind me of him, but there are some things that used to recollect him that just are no longer here.
Thinking about this made me realize something that I haven’t been making a note of, however.
This week will be the twentieth anniversary of the first Thanksgiving that Michael and I celebrated together. I started to type that the coming Christmas will be the 21st, but that one is tricky. Michael was our friend before Ray died. And Michael dropped in several time in that December to check on me. So while the actual Christmas day I spent down in Oregon with my mom and relatives there, just before I went, Michael and I had a gift exchange. And though we weren’t yet officially dating at that point, at least one of my friends later told me that thought they had noticed we were already falling for each other.
I think I’m going to be a bit pedantic and say, since the first time we hung stocking together on Christmas Eve, slept under the same roof, and woke up together to find out what Santa had left in those stockings on Christmas morning was 20 years ago, that this year will be the twentieth anniversary.
Of course, a few weeks after Thanksgiving and more than a couple before Christmas, it will be our sixth wedding anniversary. Can’t forget that!
Democrats will control the House. And that means that there will finally be some Congressional hearings into the corruption and worse that the Executive branch has been committing under Cadet Bonespur. There isn’t much we can do about the destruction of the Judicial branch that is being perpetrated during the next two years, but the thing those of us who care about equal rights and, oh, the future of the planet have to focus on is that we finally have a way to put some brakes on the fascist uprising. It’s a long term fight. We lost big two years ago. We call ourselves the Resistance because the bad guys have already taken over. This is an important step in the fight to take back the country, but we lost in 2016.
There was a bunch of other good news last night. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Key West elected Teri Johnston, Florida’s first openly lesbian mayor
- New York elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress
- Colorado elected Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the US
- Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman (alongside Rashida Tlaib) elected to Congress
- Massachusetts elected Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to Congress in Massachusetts
- Kansas elected Sharice Davids, an openly gay ex-MMA fighter and one of the first Native American women (alongside Deb Haaland) elected to Congress
- Michigan elected Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American (and first Muslim woman, alongside Ilhan Omar) elected to Congress
- Kentucky elected Nima Kulkarni, the first Indian-American elected to Kentucky House of Representatives
- New Mexico elected Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women (alongside Sharice Davids) elected to Congress
- Flemington, New Jersey elected Betsy Driver, the first openly intersex mayor of a city in the U.S.
- Indiana election J.D. Ford the first openly gay Indiana state legislature, defeating a long-time Republican incumbent in the process
- Kansas elected pro-gay-rights legislator Laura Kelly over pro-Trump and pro-voter suppression Republican
- Florida passed a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to about 1 million felons who have served their time
- Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment repealing a white supremacist policy regarding jury convictions
- Massachusetts voters soundly rejected a measure to strip away non-discrimination protections from transgender people
And election night isn’t the ending. Alexandra Erin put it very well on twitter earlier this week:
Let me be ridiculously clear about something: I am not counting on the Democrats, as a national organization, to fix anything.
Our country is on fire. We need them, but they are not the firefighters. We are.
They’re the water.
We are the firefighters. We can’t check out. This midterm wasn’t a fire and forget situation. We have to stay engaged. We have to call our congresspeople and demand that they stick to the guns, that they oppose Trump on everything. This is just one battle in the long war to take our country back. We can do it, but we have to keep fighting!