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Homage to the Sweet Potato: NC’s State Vegetable Unites the Globe and Promotes Cultural Understanding

December 11, 2009

I am sure many of you eat sweet potatoes at some point during the holiday season in one form or another. Did you know that there is a real law (Session Laws, 1995, c. 521) declaring the sweet potato is North Carolina’s state vegetable? If a vegetable can get into a law, then you know there must be something special about them.

I discovered one aspect of what makes the sweet potato special while watching TV, of all places.

Have you seen the show on the Travel Channel called “Meet The Natives?” The men from Tanna participate in their first Thanksgiving dinner in Peoria. They’re really alarmed that they’re about to eat out of tin cans. They don’t recognize the lumpy, slimy orange lump in the tin can. When one of them tastes it, he’s surprised to find out it’s sweet potato! They have those on their island. The best part is that they film the natives on Tanna cooking sweet potatoes their way!

My jaw dropped to the floor when Chief whispered to another and said, “Do they know that this food is not alive?” Chief also freaked out when they put the turkey in a plastic bag to prepare to bake it. I loved their perspective on the Christmas tree. Please, go check it out! It’s an amazing show.

To honor my new favorite show, I made up my own recipe. You should make it because it’s INCREDIBLE, mama. Do it.

Lucy’s Woot Woot Root Soup

  • Chunks of root veggies-look for them at farmer’s markets, precut in produce dept., etc. I got mine at Trader Joe’s. I think it was about 2-3 cups, so you could always make your own. My mix had sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and turnips.
  • Half a red onion cut up into chunks
  • Rosemary Sprigs (I got mine from the front yard)
  • Olive oil (Food Lion has the cheap organic kind)
  • Pepper, Salt, Sage, Thyme,  etc. whatever you want
  • Chicken or veggie broth
  • Milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange root mix, onion, and rosemary sprigs on a tray. Drizzle olive oil over it and add your spices, like this:

Bake for, I dunno, 30 minutes, check, then maybe 15 more? Bake until they are soft inside. Take out of oven and remove the sprig stems. Put mixture into food processor and blend it up.

Pour mixture from food processor into a big pot. Stir in broth and milk, add some more spices, and let simmer.

Pour some chilly apple cider, and add a hunk of bread. NOM NOM NOM

If you can punch buttons, you can make this soup! Do it!

Good thing I have “Meet the Natives” on my DVR. In the next episode, they’re going to Orange County, CA! It’s going to be out of control. It looks like they stay with the banal commonfolk mirror of the Kardashians. Sweet! I’ll eat some Woot Woot Root Soup and gawk away.

One more word about the sweet potato. I always try to pick out ones that look like animals, especially if you have some black-eyed dried peas for eyes. Check out Joost Elffers’ sweet potatoes:

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