The other side of the counter

I placed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire down on the table next to my Dr. Pepper. I looked around to see what needed to be done. Nothing. So I sat down and read my book under the harsh fluorescent light next to the warm machines. Muzak, punctuated by store commercials, echoed in the high ceiling. Occasionally someone needed film processed, but only ten rolls were processed in the six hours that I spent in the photo lab that Thanksgiving day. It was my year to work Thanksgiving and miss going home to spend time with my family. Next year I would get a Christmas Eve shift. Working alongside me was a single mother of two young boys. She had been married, but her ex husband was a giant asshole. (Which was amazing, because he was a tiny drowned rat looking man.) She was only 34, but you would swear that she was much older. She was reserved, hardworking, and rarely complained. She hated being at work that day, too.

Over the years, Black Friday has crept closer and closer to Thanksgiving day. For awhile, it seemed to respect the boundary of midnight. But now it has oozed over the line and consumed Thanksgiving.
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Thursday is mine because I can!

Many are outraged! How dare retailers take over Th…Ooo, the camera I want goes on sale at 5 that day! Retailers aren’t starting sales at these times to be evil and take over Gluttony Football Day. They’re doing it because they can. People will show up. I’m willing to bet that some of those people will also be the ones who complained and were outraged by the sale in the first place. They will take part in the stampede to be the first to get XYZ gaming system and will bite your face if they have to. People have died trying to get something on sale. And yet, year after year, sales get earlier and earlier. Year after year, people are shocked and outraged by the materialism…right until they show up to the line that wraps around the store.

It’s our fault, y’all. We perpetuate this cycle of frenzied materialism. We’re the ones who rip people away from their families because they have to be at work to wait on your ass. Some may argue that participating in Black Friday is the only way they can afford whatever they want for Christmas. While I understand that it may be disappointing to not get that thing they crave, I’m willing to bet it’s not something they need. I’m sure for some, it’s not even getting the thing that they crave. It’s the rush of finding and getting that awesome deal. Is that rush really worth it? Is it worth blowing off your families? Is it worth pulling someone away from their family so you can get your fix?

I wonder what would happen if we all just stopped? Stopped showing up to buy mountains of shit. Stopped being consumed by our obsession with whatever toy the toy companies have deemed “hot” this season. Stopped having to plan our family/loved ones/special friends time around having to shop later. Stopped pulling people away from their loved ones because they have to go swipe your credit card and smile at you like they’re totally happy to be there.

If we stopped, they would stop. It’s just that simple.

Photo credit: Star Trek: TNG

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Sweet potato marshmallows

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Thanksgiving is only a week away, and so I’ve been doing what I can to prepare for the big day. I tend to like to do practice runs for things I’ve never done before so we don’t experience an epic fail on the actual day. So I ended up roasting my first turkey the other night.
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Eating turkey the week before Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea with no possible drawbacks.

Before I made the turkey, I consulted my first go to person when I have questions culinary: Alton Brown. His podcast, The Alton Browncast, is dedicating three podcasts to Thanksgiving. So I relegated Mike to child interaction duty and listened intently on how to make gravy, (it was delicious, by the way.) During the course of the conversation with his producer, the subject of sweet potatoes and marshmallows came up. (By the way, the whole putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes came about because the mass food production industry put out a recipe saying we should do it. So, if you’re one of those offenders, STOP IT!) It was then that the world stopped because I heard these magical words: sweet potatoes in a s’more. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know about my love for s’mores. I took to the interwebs to see what I could find. Of course, it had already been done. My favorite iteration was using a sweet potato waffle fry in place of the graham cracker. But I wanted the crunch and marshmallow containment of the graham cracker. Mike, then, casually threw out the idea of a sweet potato marshmallow. This is why I married him. He’s a genius.

Sweet potato marshmallows

Ingredients

1 cup sweet potato purée
½ cup cold water
¼ cup powdered gelatin, about 4 1/4 packets
½ cup cold water
1 ¼ cups corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Cook sweet potatoes in your preferred method. I steamed them and used the cooking liquid to thin the purée. Place sweet potato in a food processor or blender to create purée, processing until purée is thick, but smooth. Avoid over processing so your potatoes don’t become gummy. Move purée to a bowl and mix in 1/2 cup water and gelatin. If the gelatin isn’t fully integrating, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until gelatin mixes in. Set aside.

Use non-stick cooking spray to lightly coat a 9×13 casserole dish or baking sheet with sides, a spatula, your mixing bowl, and whisk attachment for the mixing bowl. I suggest spraying a bit on what you’re oiling and then using a paper towel to spread the oil and remove any excess.

In a heavy saucepan, mix together 1/2 cup water, corn syrup, salt, and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan just above the sugar mixture. Once the sugar mixture begins boiling, stop stirring. Place a candy thermometer in the pan and boil until 255 degrees F.
(If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can still do this, but it will be imprecise and require guessing. Once the mixture boils, it will take about 15 minutes to reach the correct temperature. The mixture will thicken, reduce by about 1/3, and turn the color of ginger ale.)

Once the sugar mixture reaches 255 degrees F, remove from heat and carefully stir in the sweet potato mixture. The mixture will violently bubble up for a few seconds. If the sweet potato mixture isn’t melting into the sugar mixture, gently use a whisk to break up the lumps. Add mixture to your mixing bowl and place splatter guard on your bowl. Slowly increase mixing speed to high and mix for 10 minutes. Mixture will change from deep orange to a very pale orange and mostly fill the bowl. In the last minute of mixing, add the cinnamon and ginger. Pour marshmallow creme into dish/pan and quickly smooth with spatula. Allow mixture to sit, uncovered, for several hours or overnight.
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When you’re ready to cut your marshmallows, sift together cornstarch and powdered sugar into a bowl. Oil a knife or pizza cutter. If you’ve made your marshmallows in a casserole dish, oil a cutting board. Turn marshmallows out onto cutting board and cut into 1 inch squares, or desired size. Toss marshmallows in cornstarch mixture and store in an airtight container with lid slightly ajar.
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Marshmallow prior to cornstarch coating.

I was happy with the way the sweet potato flavor came through in the marshmallow. It tastes like sweet potato without smacking you in the face with it. The spices are enough to give the marshmallow a kick without taking over. The marshmallow is light and sproingy, (it’s a cromulent word.) But how would it taste in a s’more application?
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It was horrible. Best leave all of them to me to take care of. *averts eyes*

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I tried a s’more with both milk chocolate and dark chocolate….for science reasons! While I typically go with a dark chocolate for a traditional s’more, I felt milk chocolate played a lot more nicely with the sweet potato marshmallow. Perhaps a lower percentage cacao would work better if you absolutely want dark chocolate.
(Side note: If you have the ability to buy fair trade chocolate, please do. Here’s why. I’m able to find some at my regular grocery store in the organic crunchy granola section. You can also order it online.)

Please note: these marshmallows aren’t nearly as stable as store-bought marshmallows. If you’re making your s’mores in the microwave, it only takes a few seconds for them to become s’more ready, as I very quickly learned.
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A sweet potato marshmallow saying “Wheeeeee!”, personified.

Recipe adapted from seriouseats.com