Sweet potatoes! Ye orange beacons shining forth from the shadowy memories of Thanksgiving, ye starchy suitors after my own heart in these wintry doldrums—snow has fallen and you all have completed your return from the depths of the earth. Each dawn has witnessed a vista of orange tubers, protecting the vulnerable dirt from unforgiving sunlight. When families strained their relationships over the dinner table, it was sweet potatoes who waited at the table’s center, mashed or sliced or fried or whole and uncooked for those who enjoy the simpler things in life. Although Thanksgiving was several months ago, grocery stores hither and yon still serve orange bliss to those with refined taste. Although some follow the narrow path of truth, I have seen too many instances of sweet potato sacrilege. We all must recognize the error of our ways in eating mashed sweet potatoes without marshmallows. I am uniquely qualified to speak on this troubled and divisive subject.
My life has been filled with misunderstanding and unfulfilled expectations. Each morning brings the quiet disappointment of an unnoticed haircut, but instead of having a new haircut I am and always have been a sweet potato. When I got my driver’s license and passport, not one person bothered to ask if I was a tuber. Not one! There were zero questions at Lawrence’s freshman orientation that would have allowed me to casually bring up my true nature. I was even kicked out of Mission: Space at Disney World for muttering, “Mmmmm, mash me up, daddio,” but the brutish security guards made no mention of my sweet potato living. Fools, each and every one!
At times, I suspected that this lack of investigation into my #tuberlife was the result of mass conspiracy. The signs are everywhere, from my staunchly pro-photosynthesis politics to the abundance of sweet potato products sold in my Etsy store. I will be the first to admit that I may not have the characteristically smooth skin of your average sweet potato, but my habit of becoming crispy and burned in the sun is a dead giveaway.
Why give the game away now, you ask? Why reveal my true identity in the pages of the Lawrentian, one of the most widely-read newspapers regularly dispersed to each residence hall at Lawrence University in 2019?
I have chosen to reveal my identity and another earth-shaking secret because this criminal mis-preparation of sweet potatoes has gone on for far too long. My greater secret is the reason I am uniquely qualified to speak on this subject. Not only do I possess the knowledge shared by sweet potatoes across the globe; I also grapple with my own cannibalistic temptations on a daily basis. I crave the taste of sweet potatoes above all other foods and my life among tubers has been nothing but torture. I have never eaten anyone I knew personally, of course, but days without the intoxicating taste of those sweet taters are days wasted. I say this to demonstrate my expertise and unique ability to comment on the correct way to eat and prepare sweet potatoes, both as a lover of the dish and as someone who, one day, will become a star contributor to Thanksgiving’s most underrated dish.
Marshmallows belong on mashed sweet potatoes. The combination is derided by fools for many reasons, but never for any reason that holds up to the harsh eye of reason. The same people—like my roommates, Luke “The Masticator” Honeck and Delaney “I Enjoy Making New Friends in Public So Please Approach Me and Make Conversation When You See Me Around Campus” Stewart—who degrade this sweet combination are basically the people who were originally disgusted by chocolate and peanut butter. If you spend winter traipsing through snow, carving your way through three-foot drifts and listening for voices in the dark at 5 p.m., you can hear them shrieking from their dining rooms, “What is this abomination?! Two different things, brought together in one dish?!” Idiocy and closemindedness: the defining characteristics and eventual downfall of this nation. But I digress.
The visual appeal of the dish is immediately apparent. The bright white canvas of the half-melted marshmallows laid out over the magnificent gamboge of the sweet potatoes entices the eyes and rivals the eye-catching abilities of any other dish at the Thanksgiving table, no matter how sultry the turkey’s costume is. And the gamesmanship! Ah! What better way to invigorate the otherwise tiresome task of portioning dishes than the sporting competition between sweet-potato eaters? No amount of spoon-wielding prowess can prepare one for the test of fate that is portioning out mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. Like the planets of the solar system, a car under my stewardship or a cow released into a living room, the marshmallows will go where they please.
Given their sugary content, marshmallows belong on sweet potatoes more than they do on cereal. Marshmallows and sweet potatoes are a better combination than chocolate, graham crackers and toasted marshmallows. I know that many of you probably have fond memories of eating Lucky Charms marshmallows as children, rooting your grubby baby hands through a box of once-edible cereal to find those sugary morsels. I realize these memories may have been some of the defining moments of your childhood. I ask you, however, to view your past through the critical lens of someone who is Unamused By Children. As a card-carrying UBC Club member, I can provide this lens for you. You were a child. You would have eaten a mailbox if it had half the sugar content of a Hershey’s bar. Your teeth still had the strength of mid-Atlantic icebergs in 1911. Eating Lucky Charms marshmallows as an adult feels like your teeth are being shaved off with sandpaper. Marshmallows are the worst part about a cereal that was inspired by deformed Alpha-Bits without frosting. Even candy companies have been trying to show us the error of our ways; some companies have been trying to make chocolate disgusting by adding marshmallow to it and selling it as a normal candy that has always been a staple of the sugar diet. These companies are making marshmallows horrendous outside of their rightful sweet-potato context so we might finally embrace the match made in heaven.
Marshmallows are much more conducive to the welcoming embrace of mashed sweet potatoes than the brutal hellfire of smores. S’mores, much like many other camping trends that inexplicably made their way into popular consumption, were invented by losers who were so desperate for a sugar fix they threw whatever they could find into the fire. Marshmallows are only there to act as filler and prevent ol’ Tent-Livin’ Billy from eating the rest of the chocolate. When the grocery store is out of reach, humans become capable of despicable things. Fortunately for most of us, grocery stores are now closer than a six-day’s hike away. Eating graham crackers and melted chocolate is ten times better than smores, and I will not stand for this nostalgic, tent-humping justification for the practice.
When I set out to reveal my identity, I had no intention of spewing vitriol. Sure, s’mores are fine if you find yourself in the crunchy monotony of camping. They would be better if they consisted of melted chocolate and graham crackers alone, but they are fine. Lucky Charms are great if you are ten and your uncle bought you sugary cereal to annoy your parents. In the right context, all food can be delicious. But s’mores and Lucky Charms exist in a context that also has mashed sweet potatoes and marshmallows, and nothing can compare favorably to that incredible dish. Marshmallows and sweet potatoes in one dish allows for multiple sweet potato dishes in a single meal, ensuring that we all will slowly become sweet potatoes blessing the slushy mid-winter landscape of January. I must prepare myself for my final consumption with the rest of my family, but I implore you to make mashed sweet potatoes the right way: with a gooey, caramelized layer of marshmallows on top.