"Yam" by Bruce Guernsey + Sweet Potato Puree with Charred Corn

How are you coming along on the resolutions you set back in January? One of my 2012 goals that I like very much is to curate my life. It means I'm going through my closet and getting rid of anything I don't love. I'm not renewing magazines that I don't read cover to cover. I'm only saying yes to social activities that have a value-added component for me. Also, I culled my RSS feed.

Things had gotten out of control the way zucchini plants do this time of year, and I'd just had enough. I was subscribed to too many blogs, and accepted the fact that I couldn't get to them all. Also, my priorities had changed. Since launching The Giving Table last year, you can only imagine how the category of the food system has emerged in my feed. Suddenly, I was subscribed to more and more blogs tackling issues like school lunch reform, the food bill, and global hunger, and reading less design blogs. So I took the plunge. I kept the handful of design blogs I really enjoyed, and let my new priorities lead the way. Even worse, I was subscribed to well over 100 food blogs, which wasn't sustainable either, so I hit delete without remorse.

Can I tell you a secret? It was invigorating. It made me feel all the more organized and capable. Also, I should add, that it's not personal. There are thousands of blogs on thousands of topics. As writers, we can't expect that our point of view will resonate with everyone, and as readers, we only have so much time in a day, so we should only read blogs that ignite some sort of passion inside of us. It's different for everyone.

Another resolution I always seem to make is to encourage my husband to love sweet potatoes. Ok, not even love, but enjoy. Tolerate. Appreciate. Whatever makes him say, "Sure, I could eat that again." I've had great success with sweet potato fries, but not much else in six years of marriage, although progress is definitely being made.

This poem takes us underground to the cool earth. The first line begins with some humor, and we easily smile thinking of all the carrots this little potato must have eaten to turn its golden shade.


By Bruce Guernsey

The potato that ate all its carrots,
can see in the dark like a mole,

its eyes the scars
from centuries of shovels, tines.

May spelled backwards
because it hates the light,

pawing its way, padding along,
there in the catacombs.

The word catacombs right at the end is haunting, in a way. It's what made me think of the cold earth, how roots go deep, and the ecosystem that exists and functions in preparation for the yam, or any vegetable, to make its appearance above ground. It's a quiet, secret place, and when the yam emerges and is placed in our basket or shopping cart, the scars from its journey are also there, from "centuries of shovels."

A case can be made for the metaphor of the yam as a reflection of our own existence. Sometimes we must burrow, re-grow our roots, re-emerge with battle wounds and all, but that's the beauty of what makes us who we are, moving through the world, "padding along."


Everything will go into the blender, so don't worry about using your best knife skills here.

Serves 2

4-6 small to medium sweet potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
S & P
2-4 cups vegetable stock
4 ears corn, shucked
Cilantro or parsley, optional

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and rinse the sweet potatoes, them prick them with a fork. Line a sheet pan with foil and place the potatoes on top. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through. Let cool.

Heat a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil on a grill pan and once it's smoking, add the corn. Grill for a minute or two per side, gradually turning it until most of the surface is charred. Remove from the heat. Once cool enough to handle, hold each ear of corn vertically in a large bowl and scrape down its side with a knife to remove the kernels.

Heat a turn of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat in a 4-quart stockpot. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of each paprika and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. When the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes), turn off the heat.

Scrape the vegetables into a blender. Halve the potatoes, scoop out the flesh, and add it to the blender. Season with more salt and pepper, and add 2 cups of vegetable stock. As it blends, add more stock until the puree is perfectly smooth and blended.

To serve, ladle some of the puree into a bowl and top with a generous amount of the charred corn. Garnish with cilantro or parsley, and a dollop of sour cream if desired.