by David Cecelski
My 88-year-old cousin Edsel and I were talking and smoking cigars last night when he pointed to a bushel box of sweet potatoes curing on his back porch. H.B. Taylor, a local farmer, had left them for him that morning. “That’s for a rainy day,” he told me.
Edsel had it all planned out. Some morning soon, when he wakes up and finds it’s raining so that he can’t do much outside, he’ll set to preserving the sweet potatoes for the winter.
That doesn’t mean he won’t go up to the churchyard first. Rain or shine, Edsel visits Ida and the boys at the church cemetery every morning. Then he drives down to the little cemetery on the Blades Road and visits with his daughter Faye.
After he’s done at the Blades Road cemetery, Edsel told me, he’ll come home and start boiling the sweet potatoes. “But not all the way done,” he said. He’ll cook them until they’re not quite tender, maybe 15 or 20 minutes.
After he takes them out of the boiling water, he’ll skin them and slice them. Then he’ll put the sweet potato slices in meal-size plastic bags and store them in his freezer. That way, all winter, whenever he wants sweet potatoes, he can de-thaw a bag at a time and fry them in a little oil.
“That’s good eating,” I said. He nodded, like we had just found common ground of a deeply philosophical nature. We agreed that we could make a whole meal out of a bowl of fried sweet potatoes just about any winter night.
“Next time you’re coming over,” he told me, “you just let me know and we’ll fry us up some for supper.”