Sweet Potato Pie

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation: Masters Student
Residence: Claremont, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 5/3/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main description:

The following ingredients were provided by the informant via text message.

RD: “sweet potato, butter, brown sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and pre made pie crust”

AB: “So, who did you learn this recipe from?”

RD: “My mom taught me. She makes them, I think, every year around the holidays, like around Thanksgiving or Christmas mostly, and I think that’s it. But she makes a ton of them. Like seven or eight  huge-ass pies because they’re everyone’s favorite. I know she learned it from my dad’s mom, so her mother-in-law and my grandma, and I think she makes them even more. Like, all the time. Every time we visit her she has a sweet potato pie in the oven because, like I said, it’s everybody’s favorite.”

AB: “What makes your guys’ sweet potato special from, I guess, a normal pie?”

RD: “I mean it’s a normal sweet potato pie. My mom, my grandma don’t use measurements or anything, they just kinda no. That’s why the recipe doesn’t, doesn’t have any. We don’t add anything special if that’s what you mean. Well, I guess my mom uses brown sugar instead of white, which I guess some people don’t. But like what makes it special is that you’re supposed to melt the butter and sugar together in pan before you mix it into the rest of the pie.”

AB: “And that makes it taste different?”

RD: “I mean, yeah. It’s literally everyone in my family’s favorite food. There was this one time my cousin, who was just this little eight or seven year old girl, ate a whole-ass pie by herself. Literally the whole pie. We were all like… how. I guess she just really loved that pie.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Does this pie have a special meaning to you and your family?”

RD: “I mean, that pie is so much work. You know what stirring potatoes is like, like it’s just so thick that my mom always needed all of us to help. So I guess to me it means all the times that my family has worked really hard together and then all enjoyed the same pie at the end.

It’s funny, because until left Alabama and the South I guess I didn’t realize that sweet potato pie was also like, very much a southern thing? You know? Like I thought everybody had sweet potato pie. So now it makes me think of my family, but also of like the south and all the things that I don’t have here that are more normal in the South.”

Personal interpretation: Sweet potato pie is a common dessert in the south, but almost unheard of elsewhere in the United States. The informant lived in the South his whole life before coming to California for grad school, and this recipe has become emblematic of the cultural divide between the south and the west coast.