Friday, January 21, 2011

Baked Yamlettes and a history lesson

I have a recipe that a friend of mine from California (yes Marice, I finally made them) sent me last July that I'm going to share today. She loves this recipe and told me how easy they are to prepare. What are "they" you asked? Why Baked Yamlettes, of course.

Being the Southern gal I am, I used sweet potatoes, not yams. This, however, raises that age old question, "What's the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?" I know you've ask yourself this a million times, right? No? No matter, you're getting the answer today anyway.

My friend Google and I searched the web high and low to find the definitive answer. The best conclusion came from the Library of Congress of all places. (Who knew they have a section called, Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress?)

Now honestly, I always assumed the yam and the sweet potato were from the same family. If you thought the same thing, you would be wrong.

Sweet potato or yam with plant growing in the background
Created/Published: [between 1800 and 1860]
From the Japanese prints and drawings collection of the Library of Congress

According to the LOC, "Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and are from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called ‘yams’, are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family."

My goodness, I love morning glories,
no wonder I love sweet potatoes!

"Why the confusion?
In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties."

Sweet potato planting, Hopkinson's Plantation 1862
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

"Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!"

Preparing Sweet Potatoes 1938 — LOC Image

While sweet potatoes are common around our country, I do believe they are most associated with the South. We love our sweet taters in casseroles, simply baked and topped with lots of butter, in tater salad, as spicy fries and most of all — baked into a pie!

Let's get to today's recipe, which is quick, easy and delicious!

Baked Yamlettes

  • 4 medium sized yams (sweet potatoes); peeled and cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs, fresh or dried: rosemary, thyme, basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Put yams in a baggie with olive oil and herbs; shake to make sure that each cube is covered.
  2. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake in a 400°F oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned; turning frequently to avoid burning.






Now you can see that I baked mine in a glass dish, so I didn't get that browned, crispy taste you would get from cooking on the foil, but I had sweet potatoes and no foil AND I was hungry, so there you go. Either way, these are so easy and so good, try them for yourself — you won't be disappointed!

I loved them, my daughter loved them and my granddaughter, who doesn't even like to be in the same room with a sweet potato, proclaimed they were "okay" and proceeded to clean her plate.

Now I mentioned above, we love sweet potato pie here in the South…

Image from the Southern Sweet Potato Pie Company in New Orleans

and while I was researching this post, I came across another interesting morsel as I searched the Library of Congress. I found this photo with the following information attached to it:

Mrs. Davis (left) and Dr. Bethune (right) Library of Congress Images

"Dr. Bethune and Mrs. Davis, a life-long friend, talking of the times when Dr. Bethune sold sweet potato pies to make a downpayment on the institution known now as Bethune-Cookman College."

I love the determination of this woman. Come on, she sold pies to open a school!

Partial History of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida

In 1904, a very determined young black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls for students. Through Dr. Bethune’s lifetime the school underwent several stages of growth and development.  In 1923, it became a co-ed high school as a result of a merger with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida.  A year later, the school became affiliated with The United Methodist Church; it evolved into a junior college by 1931 and became known as Bethune-Cookman College.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune - Florida State Archives Photo

Born on a farm near Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune, the 15th child of former slaves, rose from humble beginnings to become a world-renowned educator, civil and human rights leader, champion for women and young people, and an advisor to five U.S. presidents.

Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D. C.
by J. J. Prats in 2007 - as part of The Historical Marker Database

To read more about this remarkable woman you can visit the Bethune-Cookman University website or visit countless other web pages from a Google search.

You can read her Last Will & Testament in its entirety here.

A remarkable, insightful document, I leave you today with just a few of her words from her will, written in 1953, two years before her death:

I leave you love

I leave you hope 

I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another

I leave you a thirst for education

I leave you respect for the uses of power

I leave you faith

I leave you racial dignity

I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men

I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people

As I face tomorrow,
I am content,
for I think I have spent my life well.
I pray now that my philosophy
may be helpful to
those who share my vision
of a world of
Peace, Progress, Brotherhood, and Love.

—Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)

18 Thoughtful Comments:

RottenMom said...

I love these post. I always learn something from you. I so adore your blog. And you!

Jane said...

Hi Rhonda!
What an interesting post!!! I did know the distinctions between sweet 'taters and yams. (Hey, I am a REAL southerner, after all.) But the info on Dr. Bethune was new to me...and completely fascinating! She sold PIES to fund her school...what a woman! And what a wonderful example of determination and following "the dream".

Thank you for your sweet comment today...Mom is still preening with all the attention she is getting. Sunday should be fun for her...all her kids and several of her grands will be here...all at the same time. (and I did check the freezer and the refrigerator...and the trash...for my keys. I going to have a lot of fun teasing Marty with this for many months!)Have fun tomorrow!

rjerdee said...

Sweet potatoes--that's me! I do a roasted cookie sheet of cut vegetables that include those sweeties every week...but I can surely benefit from you baggie idea for getting the oil-and-herbs coating on each piece! Thanks, my friend and Happy Friday!!!!

Drawn to The Sea said...

What an inspirational woman... I knew her name, but confess that's about all I knew. We should all be so strong, so wise.

Another confession... I call em sweet puh-TA-tus... not on purpose, it's just the way I roll.

Happy, yummy day.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

You always write the best posts, Rhonda, and this may well be one of the most interesting!

I'm so glad that you settled the dispute that I've always heard about sweet potatoes versus yams. Would you believe, I always heard that "yams" were yankee food??? LOL! That's exactly what I was told. Turns out, yams are African. I never knew this! Thanks for letting us know, and now I can argue intelligently with the proprietor of a health food store who tried to convince me that yams were, indeed, sweet potatoes. NOT!

I once spent an afternoon happily reading all about Dr. Bethune, and I'm so delighted your profiled her here. I love the fact that she parlayed her pie baking expertise into building a school! It is amazing.

Thanks for this great post..


Sheila :-)

P.S. I called you back yesterday, but your phone just rang and rang. Did I dial the wrong number, or is there something amiss with your phone? Most likely the former, but I'm going to try again. Love ya!

Loui♥ said...

Oh Shelle..
This is why I fell in love with YOU and your blog!!
so inspirational, informative and FUN!!
I too knew the difference between the two.. but loved the way you went straight to pies and to Dr. Bethune!
this has to be one of you best posts ever!!
You always ALWAYS leave us wanting to hurry back for the next installment at the tikihut!!
love you sister of my heart and the sea!!

Kaybe said...

Only you could take the lowly sweet tater and turn it into a life lesson. Loved the quote from her will. Great post!

Love ya!

Shellbelle said...

Since I don't allow anonymous comments (because of all the nasty people who want to leave links to some crazy websites) I'm going to post this comment my friend Marice emailed me for her:

"Now we both learned something. I had heard the difference before but I'm a Yankee so it's all the same to me. I really liked the personal touch of Dr. Bethune. Thanks - Marice"

She is the one who gave me the recipe that lead me to the story of Dr. Bethune. She's a faithful reader and an old friend (over 30 years!) who needs to one day get a Google account and come out of the shadows.

Thanks Marice!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Rhonda
What an inspiration woman Dr Bethune was.. and I just love that text at the end.. brilliant.. should we all live such worthy lives!!!

You know I don't know if we have Yams here... Sweet Potatoes yes... Now i have to research if Yams are a no no for me... perhaps as they come from a different family they may not be an issue for the insulin.. Can you imagine I can no longer have potatoes.. not even sweet!!! nor pumpkin... blaaah... I need a new body.. hahahaha

Have a great weekend.. ciao xxx Julie

Lori E said...

Not really popular up here. Maybe at Thanksgiving. Yam? Sweet potato? I walk right by them at the store. Your photo makes them look pretty appetizing though.
I love to hear of amazing women who have made such a difference in the world. To many people dwell on what can't be done instead of what can be done.

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

Great post Rhonda~
I love history and this was really an interesting read!
And that recipe really looks yummy!
I hope your enjoying lovely warm weather down your way. We are freezing our you know whats off!

Kat said...

If it's orange, and it grows underground, I like it - yam or sweet potato LOL. The recipe sounds delicious, I may try it tomorrow. Loved the information on Dr. Bethune, what a fascinating woman. Isn't the LOC just the BEST! When Cait went to Washington, she walked in, looked around, and said to her bf, oh geez, it's a good thing Mom's not here. We'd never leave! Hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Kat

Simple Daisy said...

What an interesting post!!! And the yams/sweet potatoes look delicious!! I love them whatever they are called:):)

Leo said...

Another Great post. I love visiting because I always come away learning something! And I am going to try this recipe. Looks delicious and healthy too!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Hey, you!

I'm checking in and am cold here, too.... a whoppingn 36!

Traveling again today, but wanted to drop by and give you a warm hug. Now, how about a piece of that sweet potato pie before I go???


Sheila :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow......what a post. I came to your blog with hopes of something and am leaving it...having found something completely different.

The words of Dr. Bethune brought tears to my eyes, they were so deep, so content and yet so simple. In my home country there is a renowned women's college named after her.....I now know...thanks to your post.


Tashrin - A Toronto based personal style blog

Sue said...

Well that was interesting! I love sweet potatoes and I bake them often, but usually with just salt and pepper. I'll have to add a little more spice!

CrazyCris said...

I LOVE sweet potatoes!!! One of the best things to be found on my plate, they and artichokes make winter a culinary delight!!! :o)

Another kiwi tidbit, they have a purple variety there! The Kumara. It's firmer, and they sometimes fry it up in chips. Kumara fries are delicious!

I'm going to have to try ths recipe of yours...

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