Sunday afternoon we trucked our bikes across US 21 and into Yadkin County. I hadn’t realized that those few miles would put us so much closer to the blue Brushy Mountains nor how much Amish buggy traffic we’d see late on a Sunday.
The air was as crisp as a fall apple — I stayed chilly in shorts and a sweatshirt, even while peddling — and the clear gold that seems to magnify every leaf and ladybug as sunset nears. The buggies had black curtains up against the chill, but in the last that passed us we could see a baby roughly the size of a loaf of Italian bread, swaddled in pink and nestled under her grandmother’s chin.
We are learning to say that certain settlements — or lack thereof — “look like dogs.” Loose dogs, that is, although yesterday we would have been hard pressed to say which pack was funnier — the three Lab-mix black puppies storming from one place or the three brown chihuahuas from another. We do take perverse pleasure in riding in one direction — dogs streaming behind us — only to ride back as soon as they return home and settle down. In fact, Mr. Funny Pants suggested we go a third time past the puppies after their owner finally came outside and called them back to their perch on the side porch. (We didn’t.)
We came home to fish sandwiches, homemade cole slaw and the first of this year’s sweetpotatoes, bright-orange treats about the size of three thumbs, no bigger. These are so different from the dry, pale-yellow yams I grew up with in Pennsylvania as to be an entirely different vegetable.
Most of our youngest’s high-chair suppers were nothing more than a small sweetpotato (written without a space in the South) with a cooked egg, applesauce and milk. That covered all the food groups, and she never tired of the menu.
Our neighbor Esker T. went somewhere Down East where the soil’s sandy and brought back a pickup truck loaded with these sweet, moist gems. We were the beneficiaries of enough to carry us at least through the holidays and probably longer.
A sweetpotato supper we still enjoy on crispy fall nights is this meatless hash from the American Profile newspaper supplement. It’s easy and hearty and something a little different (like the mashed sweets with jalapeno and maple syrup at the Blue Parrot Bistro in Gettysburg, Pa.). You’ll need a big heavy skillet, meaning: Well-seasoned cast iron works really well.
Sweetpotato hash with baked eggs
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweetpotatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice (about 2-2/3 cups)
1-1/3 cups minced yellow onion
1 big garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (don’t forget the rubber gloves when handling this)
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Heat oven to 400. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add potato dice and 0nion and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until potatoes are tender. Reduce heat, add garlic and jalapeno and cook another 1 to 2 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper.
Make 4 evenly spaced, slight depressions in hash and break an egg into each one (breaking the yolks if you so desire, which I always so desire). Place pan in heated oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your preference. Remove, season eggs with remaining salt and pepper and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.