Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jane's "Yum Yum Yams"

Holidays are often times that bring us closer to not only to those closest to us today, family & friends, children & spouses, but at least for me, the holiday season also brings back the memories of those close to us that have passed away over the years. Each Christmas I cherish the chance to put two small, tarnished metal ornaments on our Christmas tree, two ornaments made by my mother in 1946. These two small cherished items have been passed down in our family; and as my mom died when I was 13, they mean the world to me, and I always look forward to putting them hanging them on the tree each year. Also I think back to my wife Jennie’s sister Carrie who passed away in early 1999. Her last Christmas was actually our son Bryson’s first, and we have a wonderful photo of her holding Bryson as a baby up in Vermont from that Christmas. I miss both Carrie and my mom deeply and am thankful that the holidays bring them back to me with unique images, poignant mementos, and cherished memories.

Jennie’s mom, Jane Saliers, passed in March of 2011 and as I come towards this holiday season, my thoughts have turned strongly to her. Over the years, we made it a family tradition to spend each Christmas with Jennie’s extended family, often in Atlanta and at times in Vermont. Regardless of location, Jane and I made it a tradition to cook the Christmas meal together. While I certainly enjoyed our time on Christmas day in the kitchen, stuffing the bird, cooking the beans, helping Jane mash the potatoes, etc., my favorite memories are from our shopping prep sessions.

Before heading out for the big holiday grocery shopping experience, we would sit down together and make our plan. I can vividly remember the aluminum drip coffee pot being filled, Jane and I sitting at the Saliers little kitchen table piled with holiday cards and Christmas catalogs, and me writing out our Christmas menu and shopping list. Well before I-Pads and smart-phones, I would take my little “Franklin Planner” and write out our lists in the back of my “little black book”, ha! Over the years I actually kept a number of our annual lists in the back of my day timer, now lost in the history of moves and technology. While we would always get the menu and the list completed, those “Coffee Klatch” moments were our way of catching up; comparing notes and Christmas gift ideas, hearing about the latest stories from the library (Jane was a children’s librarian for years, learn more about her in the earlier essay “To my friend Jane”) and all in all just slowing down for a few moments to truly enjoy each other’s company. I deeply miss Jane and those little times together, and as I plan out the menu this year, I will have my friend Jane close at my side!

One of the traditional menu items that Jane made EVERY year was her “Yum Yum Yams.” While we often split the duties on most of the dishes for the meal, one year she would mash the potatoes, the next year I would, …, the “Yum Yum Yams” were her solitary domain. Even for this upcoming Christmas dinner, Jennie’s father Don has the sole responsibility to prepare and bring the “Yum Yum Yams.” I was thrilled when Jennie found Jane’s well used, highly stained, recipe card (above), and since it’s a bit hard to read over the years of use, the following is the re-printing of the recipe, Enjoy!

Yum Yum Yam Recipe

1 1/2 cup Sweet Potatoes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs scrambled
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1/2 cup scalded milk

1 cup broken pecans
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 stick oleo (butter works as well)
1/3 cup flour (preferably self-rising)

Mix well with electric mixer. Pour unto buttered baking dish. Mix topping ingredients well
and spread over the potato mixture, bake @325 degrees for 35 minutes

I hope as you gather this year with your family and friends over the holidays that you can both enjoy the company of those around you AND find special ways to remember the cherished ones that have passed; whether found in an ornament, a photo, or a delicious recipe.

Merry Christmas!

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