Warm wedges of chili flecked sweet potato pulled from the oven offer up a tangible aroma that wafts through the house, enticing hungry bellies. One large sweet potato quartered, then cut into wedges, yields just the right amount for a midday snack shared between two people. The recipe I followed calls for tossing the pieces in olive oil, salt, and a good sprinkling of your favorite spices. Really, the method is rather intuitive and as long as you have a hot oven (450-475F) and a watchful eye, you can explore the rest yourself. I baked the wedges in two batches: you want to give your sweet potato plenty of room so the pieces brown and cook evenly. For the first batch, I simply tossed in olive oil, salt, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. For the second, I added a bit of chili powder and found that I liked them even more. The sweet potatoes cook in about 30 minutes, but again, depending on your oven they may be finished sooner or later. Crisp browned skin and soft within, these are best enjoyed right away. Wait too long and they will become soft all over, though I’m not really complaining–they satisfy my cravings for finger food and are healthy, versatile, and quick to throw together.
In the past few days I’ve finished reading Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and begun Nigel Slater’s Toast. Both came to me as recommendations from my dear friend Kim; you can find her and follow along on her writer’s journey by visiting her blog www.kkaralius.blogspot.com. Bender’s is a work of fiction in which you follow the main character’s coming of age as she discovers her ability to taste emotion in the food she eats. I enjoyed the book, though it is sometimes a dismal portrayal of family and social life — as a cook, how frightening the thought of tasting the hurry, the resentment, the longing, in another’s food! What’s more horrible, the denial that most of the characters display even when confronted straightforwardly about their feelings: “I’m fine, really.” These dynamics make Bender’s book a complicated and thoughtful read. Yet, I feel I still prefer the magical qualities of food as portrayed in Isabelle Allende’s Aphrodite and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate — dramatic, sensual, and capable of uniting. Slater’s memoir is also a coming of age story, told cleverly through food themed vignettes, that I find both hilarious and disheartening, depending. I’m eager to see how the book progresses.
We enjoyed a leisurely morning at the park, followed by finger painting and a good bath. I’ll have to share some of our little paintings soon — they are colorful and textured for sure!