Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Butter and Sugar.

Here's the recipe for...

 Grampy Jim's Candied Sweets:

4 large Sweet potatoes (enough to fill a electric frying pan in one layer, flat)
water (enough to just cover potatoes)

Start day before Thanksgiving or Christmas...
Cut large sized sweet potatoes into quarters and place in electric frying pan in a single layer.  
And then you just add butter and sugar, (as Stella has learned), whenever you feel like it.  (Grampy Jim told my aunt that the recipe was "about a stick of butter and a cup of sugar," but my mom watched him make them for many years and said any time he walked past them he added a little bit more sugar, and a little pat of butter." (You end up using about a cup of butter, and 2 cups of sugar). 

Add enough water to just cover the potatoes.  
Bring to a boil, then turn it on low.  
Cook on low for a lot of hours.  Yes, just a lot.  I have never measured how long they cook, truly. (You'll get the hang of it. 
Begin by adding a stick of butter and about a half cup of sugar.
Let them cook on low... for a long time.  (Yes, a lot of hours, haha).
Cooked on low, the butter and sugar cook them through, and they will become "candied" through--stick to your teeth and delicious.  
They cook all day (Just keep watching them, making sure they are cooking, and not just sitting in warm water, butter and sugar, or burning on the bottoms.  

The water should cook off within an hour. Put the pan in the fridge and then keep them on warm, to keep getting even more sticky all morning the next day until you are ready to eat.   

Flip the potatoes gently, because as they cook, they will get soft, and you want to them to stay somewhat solid, and not get all mashed up.

Stella makes the Candied Sweets, now.  She started helping me make them when she was 4.  I cut the potatoes up, of course, but I let her add the sugar and butter, (which I would put on a low, little bench so she could reach it all), as much as she liked, and she flipped/mixed them by herself. 
My mom taught me how to make Candied Sweets, and Grampy Jim taught my mom when when she was young.  She grew up in a multi-generational house.  Her grandparents lived right upstairs, in a two level, large old house.

It's a tradition to make them every Thanksgiving every Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We make them every year.  And I make all the pies, now too, because Grampy Jim taught my mom how, and my mom taught me that too.  I know how to make Grampy Jim's flaky crust perfectly, now.  Stella does too.

It's funny how the repetition of an action or event or occurrence over years, and through generations becomes expected, and most often something that family or friends cherish and look forward to.  It becomes tradition.  And we adopt and cling to these traditions at a young age.  Change is difficult for everyone.  We want some things to always be the same.  We need some things to never go away.  We need some things we can pass along to our children, knowing they will continue with them, because we've instilled in them the love and family history that holds our lives together.  Tradition.

It took me too long to fully grasp that I can't recreate entire experiences for my children, (which were filled with bountiful and beautiful traditions when I was a child), but instead pull out the ones I know I can teach my children and pass along without any help from anyone else.


Even as a very grown up (old) person, now, I still have a difficult time letting go of what I knew and wanted my children to know.  I had to accept that traditions fade as generations move along, if we let them.  No, I guess we don't always have a choice.  My children have different grandparents then I did.  They have different extended family.  They have different parents:  That would be me, and that would be Sam.  We aren't my parents.  I am glad we aren't my parents.  I want to be who we are and have been for them, because I know they are them, because of who Sam and I are as parents...

No matter all the craziness I know has existed in myself, and in our adult lives, (And damn it.  My kids are so smart, they know more than we want to think they know), the twins are little people who love deeply. My children want things to "be the same."  My children understand tradition, and the depth of family love, whether they have it tangible and live-and-in-color as often as they should.  They have listened to every story about every loved one I could ever remember to tell them, and every memory of all the people they may never have had the chance to meet, or who left when they were too young to remember fully.  They know. They already know.

This Thanksgiving was quite different than any they had experienced in the past.  It was just the four of us.  We didn't have a lot of warning that it would not be the way they expected... tradition... but things had been slowly changing for years... People in our family have changed, and moved apart from us, even if they weren't moving away.  They still lived 2-20 minutes from our home.  We had never had a Thanksgiving with just the four of us.  We'd never known a holiday without extended family.  The kids were happy, just the same.


When I child, we had to sit on the stairs on Christmas morning and sometimes sing holiday songs until my parents would let us go into the kitchen and look into our stockings.  We'd dump them out on the kitchen table.  We had hooks on a kitchen fireplace.  We always had to go to the kitchen first and look in our stockings and eat some breakfast first.  Usually my mom made us Candy Cane Coffee Cakes, and I think it was their chance to make sure everything was still in order, (and that the cats hadn't knocked over the tree, or the "Santa" presents were in order [which were never wrapped, always put out in front of the tree], and they could drink some coffee and prepare themselves for the crazy day).  And it just stretched out all the fun, the anticipation...  I never, ever peeked into the living room even though we could see the tree from the kitchen table if we had looked.

My children never peek, they really don't! They are just like me, or how I was as a child.
They love the magic and the anticipation of the holidays, (however it is conjured), and they don't want to ruin it.

They have even woken up hours before Sam and I even felt capable of functioning properly after a long night of putting together some dollhouses or other toys that seemed to have a million pieces and directions in foreign languages.  And they would lay on our bed, or wait on the steps, or climb back into their beds if we told them it was too early and would giddily chat and giggle and keep calling down, "Is it time, yet?"

(My best childhood friend, Heather, used to unwrap her Christmas presents carefully and rewrap them weeks before the holiday arrived.  I couldn't imagine not wanting to be surprised.  I wondered how she could be surprised or excited on Christmas morning, let alone act like she was anything at all).

Anyway.  It only takes one parent and one child to keep a tradition alive, I've realized.  And I also know I can't try to make anyone else do what I hope and think they should do, and to understand the powerful importance of family traditions.  I know I have to think about my kids.  I must keep them moving along, through time, collecting memories.

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