With marshmallows, savory seasoning, or confusion, get the scoop on sweet potatoes.
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
“I Yam, What I Yam” by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Excuse me, young man, you work in this department. Where’s the yams?”
“Do you mean sweet potatoes? You know, the orange ones?”
“Yeah, yams. I need ‘em to make my grandson’s favorite dish, Candied Yams.”
“Well now, ma’am. Yams are the brown ones and sweet potatoes are the orange ones. We have Beauregard, Jewel, and Garnet. Myself, I like the purple ones from Okinawa.”
The old woman stared at me and blinked her eyes. “Yams aren’t purple.”
I chuckled under my breath. “No ma’am. Yams are brown and look like roots.”
She smiled. “Yeah, you got any orange yams?”
Yam Jungle by Ann Edall-Robson
“Did you say, damn jungle?”
“No! I said yam jungle.”
“Those are sweet potatoes!”
“No, they’re not.”
“Well, that’s what we call them.”
“Well, you are wrong, they are yams.”
“No need to get your knickers in a knot.”
“Well, then, call them what they are.”
“What’s the difference miss know it all?”
“Sweet potatoes have white flesh and are starchy, like potatoes. Yams have an orangey flesh and a sweet flavour.”
“You’ve said they’re sweet potatoes.”
“No I didn’t! Geesh, why do you continually insist on arguing with me when you know I’m right?”
Sweet Potatoes by Reena Saxena
My friend who is diagnosed with breast cancer tells me, sweet potatoes are anti-carcinogen. She has them baked, every day.
I don’t relish it much, so try a sweet potato pudding with thickened milk and sugar. It turns out well, but sugar releases free radicals, which can induce body cells to go berserk and become cancerous.
OMG! Health freaks always drive me crazy, and no two opinions are the same.
Bad news hits. My friend with cancer has passed away.
I spend a day mourning, and decide to dispense with sweet potatoes. Of what use are those anyway?
Tater Talk by JulesPaige
Two boys from Idaho, Spud Murphy and his friend Red Norland were visiting their North Carolina friend Neg Nugget. Ned’s sister Jewel had her friend Hannah Garnet over. Spud had his eye on Hannah!
Beauregard Covington was Hannah’s Uncle and guardian, he was at the Nuggets too! He wasn’t fond of Northerners especially from the west. Beau was gonna root out any trouble quicker than one could mash potatoes! No one was gonna be sweet on his niece that was from outta town.
Hannah saw her Uncle getting steamed. “I’ll move to Okinawa if you don’t settle,” she hissed!
Dinner Debate by Willow Willers
Are there sweet potatoes in this stew?
Yes I put two large ones in.
Well where are they?
They must of boiled away to mush, because you can see the colour and feel their texture.
But I like to see them physically cut them and chew them.
Okay I can fix that I can cook a couple more and pop them in before I dish up. Anything else need adding.
No there’s plenty of spuds, parsnips, swede, leeks and carrots.
How was dinner?.
There was a lot of sweet potato in it.
What? really! You’ve got to be joking!
Vegetable Cookery by Nancy Brady
The sophomore home economics’ curriculum included yeast bread, which was the main reason Julie chose this elective; however, it also included vegetable cookery. Julie wasn’t thrilled about this unit because she didn’t like vegetables; the rule was that students had to taste each one. Swiss chard, rutabagas, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and more vegetables that she had never heard of, but found that she liked. A new favorite was sweet potatoes, especially with brown sugar and marshmallows. One vegetable she managed to not eat was okra, and how Julie managed to do that without getting caught, well, that’s another story.
Kumara? by Joanne Fisher
“You’re making a roast tonight?”
“Yes there’ll be roast beef with roast potato, onion, parsnip, and kumara.”
“Kumara? What’s kumara?”
“It’s a sweet potato the Maori brought with them when they settled here. It’s nice baked, roasted, and I also make pumpkin and kumara balls with satay sauce.”
“Sounds great. There’s much about this country I still don’t know, like when the Maori settled here.”
“In the early 14th Century is the most accepted date, and the Europeans first arrived around four hundred years later. The Penguin Book of New Zealand History by Michael King is worth checking out.”
Sweet Potatoes by Anita Dawes
I have never eaten sweet potatoes
The thought of it, I have no words for it
Potatoes are not meant to be sweet
However, my father called me
his sweet potato from the age of five
Apparently, at that age I was quite sweet
He might not think so these days
I lost my father when I turned eighteen
I never told him about the teasing
The name calling when they heard him call me
by my nickname at school. I was called spud
Wondering now, would I try one in my father’s honour?
I will think about it…
Culinary Appropriation by Geoff Le Pard
‘Sweet potato fries?’
‘What’s wrong with chips?’
‘Nothing, Logan. Just different.’
‘When did sweet potatoes become a thing? When I was a kid there were just potatoes. Then someone adds sugar and you have these things. ‘
‘They weren’t invented, Logan. They originated in South America…’
‘So you say. But I bet you never had a sweet potato anything as a child.’
‘Just the common or garden spud.’
‘It’s the Americanisation of vegetables. Culinary appropriation…’
‘The potato came from America. We all learnt that, didn’t we?’
‘You’re a contrarian…’
‘Takes one to know one.’
Sweet Potatoes #3 by Grace Davis
Emmy was pretty sure that sweet potatoes were a new invention. Not like, new new but definitely from the last fifteen years. The reason for Emmy’s hypothesis was simple: growing up she had not seen one single sweet potato. Normal potatoes (Emmy wondered if one might call them ‘savoury potatoes’ now): yes. Normal potatoes were everywhere. But sweet? Never. Somewhere in the back of Emmy’s mind was a faint awareness that the entire world could not be defined by her sheltered upbringing, but, she reflected, she really wasn’t ready to deal with that. She had to face plantains first…
Dragon by Saifun Hassam
From the crest of the hill, Dragon surveyed the farmlands.
There! In the fields to the west!
An abundance of melons, pumpkins, and acorn squash ripened in the summer sunlight.
Vines of sweet potatoes turned the fields into a sea of emerald green.
Ah! Be time soon to gather in the late summer harvest, thought Farmer.
Ah! Be time soon to come down late at night, under the brilliant stars, to harvest sweet potatoes, thought Dragon.
Come morning, Farmer would find huge dragon footprints across the fields of sweet potatoes.
Harvest going back five Dragon centuries, Sorcerer told Farmer.
Delicacies for the Most High by Rebecca Glaessner
Roasted rare Earthen tuber, orange like the setting sun, melted sweet and warm on her tongue. She studied her creation on the plains below. Her Youngling workforce departed, dragging their feet, hair blowing heavy in the evening breeze.
She turned and left.
“Here she is!”
A crowd cheered as she emerged, awaiting her grand reveal.
Her award, a sculpture in her likeness.
“-for your work in advancements of Younglings. Look what you’ve created through them!”
A wall slid away, revealing her creation; the first city.
Gasps turned to cheers.
She beamed with pride, what would she craft next?
Bona Sub Terra Theory by D. Avery
“That one likes to snuggle,” she said.
He cradled the hen on his lap as he lifted his jar of dandelion wine.
“Try these— Jerusalem artichokes, best thing to come out of God’s good earth.”
The moon was now just rising. He didn’t see her slight smile as he went on about the gastronomic miracles in his garden, sweet potatoes with flesh the color of a summer sunset, but he heard her accept his invitation to dinner even as he wondered how he might prepare them for her.
‘So much good,’ she’d said, ‘so much goodness under the surface.’
Sweet Potatoes #1 by Grace Davis
Gertie hefted the sack of sweet potatoes over her shoulder with the fluid movements of one extremely practised in the art. I had always admired that about her: the ability to take the most mundane action and make it poetry in motion. As she walked out to the waiting tractor, I spied a lone potato on the floor. ‘Gertie, wait, you lost one!’ I sank down on one knee to pick it up, holding it out as she turned. I looked up at her smiling face and realised this wasn’t the last time she’d have me in that position.
Myrtle’s Basket by Charli Mills
Myrtle dug the tubers. Her spade cut the loam, missing the sweet potatoes with garnet skins. She shook them free of California soil, cut their vines, and placed each in a basket her mother wove of old clothes. Myrtle fingered a faded blue cloth, remembering the dress her sister used to wear when she gardened. Before the Spanish Flu robbed them of Althea and Papa. Dirt was harder back then. The graves difficult to hack into the drought-toughen soil. That was the only year they didn’t grow sweet potatoes. Myrtle carried fresh tubers and old memories to her kitchen.
Sweet Potatoes by FloridaBorne
I remember the first thirty years. John was a kind man… until I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration.
Yesterday, I started wrapping sweet potatoes in foil to bake. He yelled, “You know better than that! You have to cut out the bad spots first!”
“You have no right to tell me how to cook,” I yelled back.
“Just for that, I won’t drive you to the senior center tomorrow.”
I waited until he slammed the door, and drove off toward the bar, to wrap the remaining sweet potatoes for baking. I’d rather go to yoga class with Myrtle, anyway.
The Potato Thief by Hugh W. Roberts
Not everything in the garden is doing as well as the sweet potatoes.
He should never have stolen my home-grown, sweet potatoes.
He may have been an enthusiastic, good-looking man, but just because I gave him some, he had no right coming back in the dead of night to help himself to me and more potatoes.
Furious, I ended up hitting him over the head with the shovel and burying his body under the sweet potato patch. Boy, did it make them taste even sweeter; until the day forensics arrived and dug up the patch.
Still, at least I get to make sweet potato mash for all the boys here in prison.
Pearls and Wisdom by Kerry E.B. Black
Dr. Jackson peers over reading glasses tethered by a pearl chain, an older woman’s style, but age brings wisdom.
I hope so.
“Suri freaked out. Total melt-down. Hit her sister with her crutch. When I hugged her, she bit me. Everyone in the restaurant stared. So, I carried her to the car. Told the others to stay, eat.” I sniff. “I don’t even know what triggered her.”
“It can be anything. A smell. Someone who looked like her attacker.” The counselor shrugs. “A sweet potato casserole that reminded her of him.”
I wish for reading glasses strung with pearls and wisdom.
Child’s Play by D. Avery
He arranged the sweet potatoes into orderly rows on the grass.
“No. They’re dry. Mommy says to put them in the crates.”
Ruth knew she was in charge. She also knew that play helped with any work. Her potatoes sang and danced their way into a crate.
His marched, then dove into the crate. “Ayaaaa!”
“Gently. Don’t hurt them.”
He blinked at her, then feverishly started removing potatoes, tossing them to safety behind the tangled vines. “I won’t leave you! Come on!”
She went to him, hugged his tear-stained face like Mommy does, said, “It’s okay Daddy, it’s okay.”
A Filipino Treat by Sue Spitulnik
Tessa looked at the shopping list with skepticism. She asked Michael, “What are you going to make?”
“A dessert that I was introduced to while in the Philippines. It’s a thin tapioca pudding made with coconut milk. Then rice balls, sliced plantains, boiled sweet potato nuggets, and chopped figs are added.”
“It is. You have to prepare all the add-ins first.”
“You’ll sure dirty a lot of pans.”
“Correct. That’s why I’m making it when Lexi and Adam will be here to help with eating and clean up. I promise everyone will love it, especially Emma Blossom.”
Sweet Taties by Annette Rochelle Aben
Many years ago, the group known as Weight Watchers had a recipe for what they called One Potato, Two Potato Salad. What made this different from the standard potato salad was the addition of sweet potatoes! While I don’t remember all the ingredients, I do recall it tasting terrific.
Flash forward thirty years and I meet a vegan chef who makes a potato salad using only sweet potatoes (she doesn’t eat white potatoes). This is also a tasty way to enjoy a picnic favorite. Hers uses tofu in place of eggs and a vegan mayo spread.
Both good ideas!
Diet Spuds by Ritu Bhathal
Sue discovered sweet potatoes on her diet. Her slimming group leader insisted they were better for her than her usual baked spuds.
She gingerly took a knife and sliced open the elongated root vegetable to reveal the flesh’s brilliant orange hue.
Well, this would, at least, bring a little colour to her dull meals.
A sweetness lingered in the air.
She ground a little pepper and added a pinch of salt.
The usual knob of butter called to her from the butter dish, but she ignored it, added a little low-calorie cheese, and took a tentative bite.
“What you don’t know…” by Goldie
When my aunt announced that she would be making mashed sweet potato for Thanksgiving, my uncle’s face grew red.
“You must have lost your damn mind! Giving in to this ‘new age’ crap is not going to make you any younger, you know?” Bruce pulled out a beer from the fridge and took it with him to the living room, away from his clearly deranged wife.
“Mmmm… That’s quite tasty. What is it? Pumpkin?” my uncle asked, scooping a bit more of the dessert covered with marshmallows onto his plate.
“It’s sweet potato.”
Blood drained from my uncle’s face.
Sweet Potato Disaster by Nicole Horlings
He heard a cry of frustration as he opened the door, and soft sobbing as he took off his shoes and coat. “Oh honey, what’s wrong?” he called out as he gathered up his briefcase and travel mug.
“I can’t do anything right.” She pointed at the charred mashed sweet potato and marshmallow dish. Just at that moment, the smoke from the oven reached the fire alarm. She scrambled to get up off the kitchen floor, but he beat her to it.
She stood despondently in the hallway. He pulled her into a hug, whispering, “We can get takeout.”
Sweet Potatoes #2 by Grace Davis
Sweet potatoes. Iris stared at the orange interlopers. Why were they there? Who had asked for sweet potatoes? It couldn’t be Bob, he barely tolerated the average potato… maybe Maggie? But why? Iris picked one up and sniffed it. A woman entered the room and smiled, ‘Got your sweet potatoes, just like you wanted!’ Iris frowned, ‘They aren’t mine, dear, but no matter. My daughter, Maggie, she asked me to make a sweet potato pie once… I think I remember the recipe.’ The woman nodded tightly before turning away. Under her breath, she muttered ‘Oh Mum… maybe this week.’
Mom’s Trickery by Lisa Coleman
“I don’t like sweet potatoes”, John stated as he stuck out his tongue.
“They’re good for you and will make you strong”, his mom told him.
“Popeye says spinach makes you strong”, John stated enthusiastically.
“Popeye also says, “I yam what I yam”, mom burst out laughing.
With a devious smile on her face, Mom turned towards the table, looking into John’s eyes and said, “I think he would want you to eat your sweet potatoes, get strong and build muscles like him, so in honor of Popeye, tomorrow night we’ll have spinach”.
John frowned at the thought. “YUCK”!
Usain Bolt by Ruchira Khanna
“You know, in no time, I’ll be the fastest runner on this planet. I’ll beat Usain Bolt too,” I said to my friend over the telephone as I chewed upon the boiled sweet potatoes that had black salt sprinkled.
I saw my Mom grin.
When I put down the receiver, I inquired.
“All eat, and no sweat will not make you the fastest runner, sunny boy!”
“Bolt eats Yam, while I choose to eat Sweet Potatoes that are way more nutritious than the latter. So, for starters, that has notched up my slot.” I said with a wide smile.
Sweet Potato Pie by Marsha Ingrao
Ms. Cairns’ kindergarten class clapped to the ditty, “Sweet potato pie, sweet potato pie. If I don’t get some, I think I’m gonna die. Take away my roller skates. Take away the sky…”
“Wait,” Jessica shouted, waving her arms. “That’s not right. In my other school it was ‘Alligator Pie.”
“Yucky, Jessica. No one eats alligator pie,” Zack said.
“Not roller skates neither,” Jessica stood up tears streaming down her face.
Ms. Cairns walked over to Jessica’s side hugging her.
“Let’s hear it your way, Jessica.”
“Alligator pie, that’s funny,” Zack said.
Everyone chanted, “Again, again, again!”
In the Pie of the Beholder by R. V. Mitchell
“Mom, this pumpkin pie tastes funny,” Dean said making a face.
“That’s because it isn’t pumpkin. It’s sweet potato pie.”
“Potato?” Dean queried.
“Sweet potato. It is really nice, and you should thank your Aunt Lottie for making it for us.”
“Um, thank you Aunt Lottie,” he said with a forced smile before taking another bite.
“That’s okay Sweetie. Southern food might take some getting used to for you New Jersey boys.”
Well I hope I will never have to eat enough of it to get use to it, Dean thought. “Well, I look forward to trying it again.”
Special Occasion by Gloria McBreen
I waited to take his order.
‘What do you recommend?’ he asked.
‘The Sweet Potato Frittata,’ I replied.
And so began the rest of our lives together.
For every special occasion we shared over the years, we’d celebrate with sweet potato. It was our little joke.
Today we met for lunch at our favourite spot in the woods. He brought the coffees and I brought loaded sweet potatoes. ‘What are we celebrating?’ he asked.
‘Look in the bag.’
He lifted the paper bag off the table and took out a white stick.
After all these years—two pink lines!
Playing Her Sweet Potato by Anne Goodwin
Sounds stretched and shrunk, colours dissembled. Violet trees and turquoise cows drained her energy. The hospital promised to replenish it.
She requested seclusion, but they insisted new admissions sleep in the dorm. Sleep? With that symphony of snorts, sigh and squeals quarrelling with her inner voices. Hardly therapeutic!
The food was cordon bleu. Her taste buds functioned fine, but butternut squash repulsed them. She ate the lamb, pushed the vegetable aside. “Ain’t you eating your roast potato?” They claimed she’d ordered those nightmare orange lumps.
Now she sits in solitary, coaxing a tune from her sweet potato (AKA ocarina).
The Coronavirus Sweet Potato Pie Blues by Bill Engleson
I caught the Covid love bug.
It surely took my breath way.
Can’t give my baby a hug,
In a snuggly way.
And my sweet, my sweet potato pie
You were the apple, the apple of my eye,
My sweet, my sweet potato pie.
I went off my diet and that’s no bloomin’ lie.
I got the Covid love bug,
Played a fancy man’s game.
Ended up a lonely mug
Only got myself to blame.
Caught the Covid love bug,
the Coronavirus blues.
I’m a two-timin’ lug.
So, what else is news.
…and my sweet…my sweet potato pie….
Sweet Patootie by Doug Jacquier
SQ: Of what value is a bet based on a sweet patootie, in the sense of the expression ‘you bet your sweet patootie’, referring to someone’s assurance of sincerity. Modern times have transformed this former endearment into a somewhat uncouth reference to a person’s derriere (aka a person’s rhymes-with-pass), giving rise to a conundrum. If the person being spoken to is a Boney Moroney with a patootie to match, does this mean the bet is of little value? Conversely, if applied to a person of steatopygian dimensions in the booty department, is it a bet of immense value? Discuss.
Hope. Springs. Eternal. by Liz Husebye Hartmann
We’ve gotten a respite from chilblain-blistering cold, with temps tomorrow in the mid-sixties. Nearly a week of melting’s left my home’s southern exposure (nearly) stripped of snow, grass matted like a week in bed with stomach flu. Rain, possibly thunder, predicted for the day after tomorrow; may it inspire some green.
This is Minnesota. Just a couple more blizzards to come, yet.
Shriveled sweet-potato vines languish in a lonely patch beside bandy-bodied hedges. Neglected potatoes, more vine than fruit when planted last August; I hope that 2021 offers another chance.
I baptize its bed with more nutrient-rich coffee grounds.
Curly Lies by D. Avery
“Quit yer yammerin’, Kid.”
“Dig the taters outta yer ears an’ listen, Pal. Tellin’ ya, we got anuther mystery goin’ on here at Carrot Ranch.”
“How kin a sweet p’tater patch wander off, Kid? Ya musta fergot where ya planted ‘em.”
“We’ll look agin. See any vines creepin’ ‘long the ground?”
“Nope. Mebbe I should git Curly ta hep sniff ‘em out. Curly? She seems mighty tired. I’ll let the sleepin’ hog lie.”
“Kid! Look it thet turned over soil! Yer pig et the sweet p’taters, vines an’ all!”
“No yams fer us.”