Apparently the Food Network's Guy Fieri and Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield have strong opinions about a Thanksgiving favorite: sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. Time recently reported that the two well-known chefs are saying you should never serve the dish at Thanksgiving.
To be fair, neither of them are quoted as saying "never." The headline uses the word, though, and it's ridiculous. If you want sweet potatoes with marshmallows on your Thanksgiving menu, then you should have them.
The reason Fieri and Bloomfield, along with chef Michael Symon of "The Chew," are anti-sweet-potato-casserole is personal preference. Fieri says he just doesn't like it. Bloomfield and Symon find the taste and texture unbalanced, as there's nothing in the dish to counterbalance the sweetness or the softness.
They aren't against all sweet potato dishes, though. Symon, for instance, suggests combining sweet potatoes with "Idaho potatoes for some acidity and topping the dish with praline." However, another chef interviewed for the Time piece, Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, would rather there be no sweet potatoes at all on the table, saying they are "the least interesting and probably the least satisfying dish on the table."
Tradition trumps a chef's opinion
I'm not going to get all in a huff about celebrity chefs trying to force their choices on (or off) my Thanksgiving table. These chefs aren't coming together to officially campaign against sweet potatoes and marshmallows. They were asked a question and they shared their thoughts.
Now, here are my thoughts.
Holiday traditions and rituals are important. They're comforting. When these traditions surround food, they can make the food even more enjoyable. Seeing the same foods year after year on the Thanksgiving table isn't just tradition, it's ritual. For those who chose to share a Thanksgiving meal, there's no reason to alter the ritual based on a celebrity chef who says sweet potatoes aren't interesting enough.
Keep your food rituals for as long as they serve you well. If the tradition on your Thanksgiving table is to have sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, then have sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. What's important is to sit down to a meal that means something to you.
I brought the subject up on Facebook, and I think my friend Challey put it into perspective well.
"I think Thanksgiving food is more of an emotional/nostalgic thing," she said. "If the sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows/streusel/butter/whatever doesn't win a culinary award but makes you happy, at least for one day, who cares? Eat whatever makes the day special for you (collective you)."
For the record, my Sweet Potato Casserole recipe, which I traditionally make when I host Thanksgiving, has a brown sugar and pecan topping. There isn't a chef in the world who could convince me to let it go.