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A Thanksgiving postcard from the South

If you ask any American about Thanksgiving, you will get very different opinions. Honestly, I struggled trying to eloquently give my perspective on one of the cornerstones of American Culture and tradition. Thanksgiving is a big deal to us Americans in one way or the other and hopefully you get some interesting insight on it.

Truth be told, some form of Thanksgiving is celebrated in multiple countries but Thanksgiving is arguably a uniquely American institution. Thanksgiving had a complex and controversial beginning in the New World with religious and/or agricultural celebrations brought over by European settlers to the New World. Through time, Thanksgiving has evolved into a mostly secular (and commercial) celebration and most Americans consider Thanksgiving the official beginning of the “Holiday Season” which begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day.

The celebration of Thanksgiving differs per family and per region of the US, so I can’t speak for everybody. Therefore, you will see the Thanksgiving through the lens of an African-American living in the southern part of the United States.

 

During Thanksgiving, this house would be buzzing with activity. (Source: Byrd Family)

Family. Friends. Food. Football.

These words come to mind when I think about Thanksgiving.

Memories flood in when I recollect on my childhood during Thanksgiving in the small town of Bonifay in the Florida panhandle.  This is where my mother grew up and every Thanksgiving my family and I would make the 3-hour trek to my maternal grandparents’ quant little tinned-roof house. Then for the next 3-4 days, those four walls are crammed with aunties, uncles and god knows how many 1st, 2nd and possibly 3rd cousins.

During Thanksgiving, I would play American football with my cousins before having a massive Thanksgiving dinner that included turkey, smoked ham, dressing, collard greens just to name a few. Of course, televised professional football would be playing on television in the background. At some point the house went silent as most of the family were taking naps from all the partaking.

Since, I moved abroad 6 years ago, Thanksgiving has gone through a dynamic metamorphosis in meaning and actual execution. From when I actually celebrate it to whom I celebrate with has changed over the years. I have a Swedish wife and I have slowly and partially instilled some form of Thanksgiving with my in-laws. As I have celebrated Thanksgiving in 4 different countries since leaving home including having Thanksgiving here in Copenhagen this year, I have adapted my Thanksgiving dinner to the available (and affordable) ingredients in my country of residence.

But one thing is for sure, the meaning of Thanksgiving has remained steadfast. Thanksgiving is the celebration of family and friends having fellowship around a lovely meal while enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on what we are thankful for.

As a thanks to Copenhagen, CBS and ISA for letting me join their communities, below is a recipe for sweet potato pie. Sweet potato pie is common in the Southern United States and African-Americans and its history has likely ties to African-American slaves. Lastly, sweet potato pie is great by itself but I think a warm slice goes well with a dollop of whipped cream and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

A slice of sweet potato pie. A slice of home. (Source: Pexel)

 

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe:

Pie Crust:

1-1/2 cups (192 grams) of all purpose flour, chilled

1/2 cup (113 grams) of butter, chilled

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 – 4 tablespoons of iced water

2 – 4 tablespoons of cold milk

1 Egg, lightly beaten

Note: If you don’t feel like making your own pie crust, you can find pre-made pie crust in your grocery store

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
  • Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles yellow bean-sized bits of butter. (If the flour/butter mixture gets warm, refrigerate it for 10 minutes before proceeding.)
  • Add the egg, water and milk and stir the dough together with a fork or by hand in the bowl. If the dough is dry, sprinkle up to a tablespoon more of cold water over the mixture.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with a rolling pin into a 12-inch (30.5 cm) circle about 1/8-inch (.3 cm) thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan and trim the edges, leaving about an extra inch hanging over the edge.
  • Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge that is even with the rim. Freeze the pie shell for 30 minutes.
  • Line the pie dough with baking paper or foil and fill it with either pie weights, sugar, dry rice or dry beans. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 minutes
  • Remove baking paper or foil with weights then poke the bottom of pie dough with a fork before baking for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through

Pie Filling:

1 lb (roughly 454 grams) of Sweet Potato

½ Cup (113 grams) of Butter (softened)

1 Cup (128 grams) of Sugar

½ Cup (1.25 dl) of Milk

2 Eggs (lightly Beaten)

½ Tsp of Ground Nutmeg

½ Tsp of Ground Cinnamon

1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract

¼ Tsp Salt

  • Bake the sweet potatoes for roughly an hour and a half (or until the sweet potatoes are tender in the center). Take them out and let cool slightly before removing skin.
  • Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into pie crust.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and/or the filling is almost set with a slight jiggle in the center. Pie will puff up like a souffle and then will sink down as it cools.

 

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