Everybody has the vegetable they loathed as a child, and probably don’t even like now. There’s the infamous Brussels sprout, the terrible broccoli (or cauliflower, in some cases), the despicable beet. I was apparently the golden child of my generation – I ate carrots straight from the soil and beans picked just off the vine. But I had a few that I wouldn’t eat. Lima beans, a favorite of Mom’s. Tomatoes, though ketchup was okay*. Okra in any form.
And sweet potatoes.
I don’t know why ‘sweet potatoes.’ One would think it would be a no-contest children’s food – mashed, cubed, easily flavored, often sweet. What more could you want? It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t eat them. Maybe it was the presentation first – the only way I ever saw sweet potato was in casserole or soufflé, topped with marshmallows and browned black on top, rough-textured and cloyingly sweet. I was not a fan, and in fact, am still not a fan of that particular dish. As I got older, I still shunned them in whatever form, whatever color, however prepared. No sweet potatoes, or yams, or anything. No thank you.
Now that I am older still, I’m a little more adventurous. I heard about all the health benefits of sweet potatoes, saw the lovely colors and decided… well, they’re cheap for right now, why not? I took some home and promptly forgot about them. Good thing tubers stay acceptable in the dark and cool of my pantry.
I was hungry right then, so I decided baked sweet potatoes were right out. I didn’t have time to wait an hour or somesuch for baked potatoes. I peeled and cubed them roughly instead, planning on a mashed sweet potato something. I threw my cubes in a pot of boiling water and let them starch themselves out while I put breaded pork chops in the oven and prepared asparagus spears for roasting.
In the midst of the potatoes’ boiling, I tasted one to see what it was transforming into. I was pleasantly surprised to find it tasted like little more than a carrot (which happens to be one of my favorite veggies to this day). On that note, I decided mix it all together with a little booze, some honey and a little brown sugar after draining off the water.
Plating it all together gave me a medley of colors – bright green asparagus, juicy browned chop and blatantly orange sweet potato cubes. (The mashed part went out the window when I decided I was just too hungry to wait the extra few minutes. Isn’t that terrible?) I ate a piece of chop, a spear of asparagus… and a piece of sweet potato. It was slightly boozy from the whiskey (Bulleit Bourbon, for those who are curious), salty to a point and honey-sweet – but not the sweet sticky cloy of my childhood. I ate all my sweet potato that night and all the leftovers for a day or two after that. I’m still thinking about the sweet mash, but maybe at another time.
That’s one down – maybe one day I’ll have worked myself up to like raw tomatoes.
Was there ever a vegetable you hated as a kid that you grew up to love (or at least tolerate)?
*Did you ever get the spiel from your parents (if you were a tomato-hater like me) that you couldn’t possiblydislike tomatoes, because you liked ketchup and that was just mashed up tomatoes? Did it aggravate the tar out of you too? It sure did me.