Gusto y sabor  

Sweet Potato Pone

There's gold in them thar hills!

By Guadalupe Gonzalez
Published on LatinoLA: November 18, 2011


Sweet Potato Pone


My life is a mixture of the good and the not-so-good. I think pretty much like everyone else's. The other day, I went to the post office and a man with a Greek accent said, from out of the blue, "Without the waves, the sea cannot be calm." I thought about it a moment and agreed. "So true", I said.

But then I thought, "Is this an episode of 'Get Smart' being filmed around me?" Maybe I am supposed to say, "Sin el sol, no puede haber tiniebla." (I really could have said anything in my imagination. But between you and me, mi Gente, I like to say the word, "tiniebla.")

When I am in the midst of the hospital not-so-good trauma/drama scene, I feel as if it will last forever. Para siempre. Y mas. So, I try to make the best of it. I go to where I feel the best. (Besides the Chapel.) THE CAFETERIA.

Two years ago, when we were in Houston for my husband's second surgery, it was Thanksgiving week. He had his pre-ops, then we waited over the holiday weekend for the surgery. On Tuesday, we began to see food appear on long tables set up in the eating area of the cafeteria. Prices were marked on the individual, huge silver serving containers. I looked around and saw hospital employees buying their stuffing, gravy, veggies, pies, cranberry sauce, pies....eeeeeeeeeee! PIES! There was one type that I had never seen before. It was called "Sweet Potato Pone." WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? My Mami never told me about that!! (Although she needles me into making cornbread stuffing (or "estuffing") every year. Because that is what she used to have at Thanksgiving when she was going to school in Houston.)

Also, she cries when she hears "White Christmas" sung by Bing Crosby, as she had snow at Christmas in Houston a few times. (Remind me to tell you about their freaky weather. Hijole!) So, then that makes all the hijas cry, whether we are together or on our own. If you happen to see a chunky Latina leaning on the Whipped Cream/Ice Cream section of the store, quietly sobbing to "White Christmas", say "hi", because that is me.

Back to the Sweet Potato Pone. Se??ores, Se??oras y Se??oritas, Ni??os y Ni??as, you have not lived until you have put a spoonful of Sweet Potato Pone on your delicate palate. Graham cracker crust, a fluffy concoction of sweet potato, sugar and butter, and streusel (azucar, mantequilla y canela, hombre!) and just feel it melt into your sugar and butter deprived mouth. Now, this is REAL holiday food! My husband had to undergo major aortic surgery so I could live in the cafeteria and make myself hugemungous salads (watch those calories!) so I could "save room" for the inevitable Sweet Potato Pone. Ay, he was medicated anyway.

My sister had flown in while my husband was in surgery, so I quickly showed her around and Gracias a Diosito, they were now serving individual Sweet Potato Pone for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did not want to appear like El Porky, so I waited for change of shift in the servers and then bought one for lunch. Then I snuck back and bought another for dinner, back at the hotel, where they had a fridge in the room. (But then the cashiers, mis amigas, would yell out a cheerful holiday greeting, "Ah, there ya'are, and with that Sweet Potato Pone AGAIN!") Que pena. They were probably watching me and laughing in the closed circuit camera room.

One night, as my husband was getting his dinner tray, the food service lady told me that she had wanted some Sweet Potato Pone but her supervisor had told her no, that she had to wait till all the patients and customers were served. Then, if any was leftover, she could have some. ??????Que??? That was Sweet Potato Pone descrimination, in my book. I was incensed and upset.

So upset, in fact, that I marched off to buy her her Sweet Potato Pone and to get me one, too. Just to show them who is boss! I arrived on the elevator, back to the fourth floor, Miss Congeniality and Sweet Potato Pone Diva, calling out "De-liv-ery!!!" My lady appeared as did the nurses, and as I left, I heard them asking, "Who was that?" I betcha Wonder Woman felt the same rush of satisfaction on a job well done. But I never caught the Sweet Potato Pone episode, so I will never know for sure. I may have to write to Lynda Carter (Latina, by the way) and ask her.

It was all going swimmingly well until one day, when we were leaving our hotel room, and my sister, Alicia, who was behind me, said, "Your ass is really big." Just like that. In the same tone one would say, "Va a llover", she says, "Your ass is really big." Then she said, "And it is getting bigger with all that Sweet Potato Pone you are always buying and hoarding here in the hotel."

A true Southern Latina would have fluffed up her fan and said, "Well, I nevah...!" and ordered a Mint Julep and make that PRONTO. But then, a true Southern Latina would have been wearing her hoop skirt and really big hair. I had neither. The hoop skirt would have prevented my entry and exit into the room. And what was Alicia doing, looking at my ass, anyway? (I did, however, spot a lady wearing her "Dr. Pepper" pj pants that matched the ones my Mami bought mi querido.)

So, mi Gente, I had to go cold turkey on my beloved Sweet Potato Pone. No mo' Pone for La Lupe. This year, for the holidays, I will look up "Sweet Potato Pone" on the 'net and will make the one most similar to the "ones I used to have." That, and the estuffing.

And the weather: Somedays it was eighty and humid. The next, it was bitterly cold. My sister ordered a down jacket from QVC (or, as we insiders call it, "The Q"), to be overnighted. By the time it got there, it was hot again and I could avoid the penguin look with my four blouses on, one over another. The jacket went back. We came back, too, and flew an airline that stops everywhere, you know the one. "Cattle call! Errrr....Passengers are now boarding."

I think we almost went to Vegas just because it was there. ("How many of you have quarters in your pockets, huh? Want to unload some change and get watered down drinks? Okaaaay. We are landing in Vegas. Seat backs in forward position and trays locked up.") And Utah. Who goes to Utah? Anyway, everytime we landed somewhere, I took a Xanax. (THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE, remember, I am a lawyer.) I needed to rest. By the time we landed in Burbank I was limp.

My master plan after the Sweet Potato Pone makes a big hit with the familia: Shhhhhhh, don't say anything. Be silent, mi Gente. Cheesy grits is the next "Big" "In" meal accompaniment. OOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooh. Be still, my heart.

And it did snow in Houston. Boy, is it weird there.

About Guadalupe Gonzalez:
L.A. Attorney and Hospital Food Gourmand




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