I love sweet potato pie.
In truth, I love sweet potatoes in general. But especially in a nice, warm, fresh pie. My mother, as all mothers seem to do, managed to make the best sweet potato pie in the world. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, the house smelled of countless different spices and seasonings, but I could always pick out that nutmeg/cinnamon combination that is essential to a good sweet potato pie. I cannot recall when I last tasted her pies; my thinking is that it was around 1989 or 1990. She didn’t cook much after 1992, and then we lost her shortly thereafter. For years I did without my favorite dessert because I just didn’t know what to do.
The year following my mother’s passing, a good friend gave me a cookbook as a Christmas gift. Among the various recipes were nearly a dozen variations of sweet potato pie. I’ve tried a couple, but have now settled on one version that I like and bake the most. Two or three times per year I’ll go and pick the best potatoes for this sacred honor. It’s good, I won’t lie. Each pie is a reminder of two wonderful women: The loving mother who taught me to love certain tastes, and the woman who helped reacquaint me to those tastes.
You’re probably wondering where this is headed.
Like many other sweet potato pie aficionados, I’ve been interested in the “Patti LaBelle” sweet potato pie, as sold by Walmart. My local store was out of them for weeks; all they had was a sign with Patti’s photo and a note that said, “Sorry,” or words to that effect. It wasn’t that I had to have this pie, but rather that I wanted to see what all of the hub-bub was about. There are about a half-dozen or so other frozen sweet potato pies out there from various bakeries, but not much has been said about them. Patti’s pie was supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, so yes, I was curious.
But it was due to my sister that I was able to finally realize my goal. She had a nearby Walmart that did have some of these things in stock, and knowing that I was curious, she picked one up for me. I stopped by her home, and in a scene that seemed ripped from the best Cold War spy movies, we made the exchange – she gave me the pie, and I gave her my thanks. I was giddy as I got the frozen package. (Sis didn’t know when I’d be coming by, so she froze it for me.) Finally! I was thrilled. I’d finally get to taste the very pie that the Internet’s been talking about!
Well . . .it’s okay. That’s about all I can say. It’s okay. I personally don’t see it as being much different from any of the other pies I mentioned, aside from the fact that there’s been a lot of hoopla made over it. The pie that I sampled was tasty, but it had too much nutmeg for my tastes. That doesn’t make it inedible; it just means that it’s a little sharp for my tongue. Sis pretty much expressed the same sentiments, so I know that I wasn’t being hyper critical. I can’t say that I’d buy it for myself, either. I enjoy making my own pie, so there’s that. If you’re new to sweet potato pies or just want one with no fuss or mess, then by all means – go get Patti LaBelle’s pie. But if you know your way around a kitchen and don’t mind doing the work involved, then get a decent cookbook that’s focused on Southern cuisine, and make one the old fashioned way.