Thursday, November 26, 2009

Invasion of the Red Menace

Over the river, through the woods, to my house they go.

Sweet potatoes.

Up the interstate, along the Front Range, marched up the sidewalk, ringing at the door bell.

Sweet potatoes.

The horror.

This being our first Thanksgiving back in the brisk Mountain West, where the holiday actually nudges up to the bounds of Currier & Ives propaganda, we are having a favorite aunt come for dinner. She is bringing sweet potatoes.

Living where she is, Colorado, and having not had the advantage of the informational campaign I waged for a quarter century in Central Texas, she still harbors the impression that sweet potatoes are food. I think we have convincingly impressed upon the reading public that said assertion can only be swallowed under a layer of marshmallow cream.

And I'm no fan of marshmallow cream, either.

Let me backtrack a few lines and acknowledge that sweet potatoes are fitting food. Livestock finds them quite appealing. And my dogs like sweet potato treats. They also will eat june bugs.

All along, in addition to advising people about the chief falsehood about sweet potatoes — that you can eat them — I've striven to make my commentaries positive. Positively pro-sweet potato, I am. I have told readers of all the ways you can use sweet potatoes in ways other than putting them in your mouth and asking your esophagus to do what God never intended of it.

I tried that once. Once.

Pro-sweet potato? Yes, I yam. Who brought to readers' attention the many new and exciting uses for sweet potatoes, such as using them in mill tailings to help remove arsenic from gold mines? As George Washington Carver is witness, I've touted sweet potatoes' utility in making ink, and plastic, and ethanol. Vicious correspondence from the United States Sweet Potato Council did not acknowledge as much, but should have. I'm all for growing sweet potatoes if they can wean our dependence on foreign starches, just as long as people understand the truth. I mean, you can make lighter fluid with dinosaur carcasses, but you wouldn't want them for dinner.

To that end, it's time to trot out, by request from so many, the annual recipe that best employs the specious tuber (and harms no stunt animals in the process):

Young's Sweet Potato Barbecue

Take 6 bags of potatoes.

Take one bag of cement mortar, add sand and water.

Stack potatoes in four contiguous walls of about four feet high, using trowel to apply mortar affixing each in place.

When four equal walls have been built, let dry.

Obtain iron grill, place on top. Using lit charcoal briquettes, cook large T-bone steak on grill.

How much more pro-sweet potato can one be? I'm so pro-sweet potato that when Aunt Sandy brings her side dish to our house I will graciously allow her to place it out on the deck for serving purposes, while we dine inside.

No, not in the house. You realize that, just sitting, steaming in the casserole dish, cooked sweet potatoes are emitting molecules into the air, molecules which glom onto human skin, hair follicles, walls, upholstery and carpet — deep, deep in the carpet fiber.

I realize that large numbers of Americans have not received my informational message, so I will endure. Wednesday's New York Times, for instance, has a commentary by Jessica Harris calling sweet potatoes "a culinary reminder of our national history and deserving of a place at the Thanksgiving feast."

Not if one brave man can alert a nation first.

John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail:

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