Full moon setting; rosemary mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized shallots

Florida-grapefruit yellow moon dropping to the horizon outside study windows this morning, something I’d miss if I could sleep past 4 a.m. The last of the moonlight makes luminous the mist exhaled by the sleeping pastures, and I wonder, again, how I can leave this extraordinary beauty for a more prosaic site with more people,  more life.

Because I drove more than 150 miles yesterday for lunch with a cousin I hadn’t seen in 44 years, my glamorous second-cousin Amy with her mother’s smokey eyes and voice.  Amy’s dad and my mother were first cousins in the more-or-less gothic Lawrence clan. Not that they wore black eyeliner and tattoos, but each of the four children of Amy’s and my great-grandparents seemed to suffer blows beyond the usual twists in life’s journeys. Which doesn’t mean they weren’t beautiful and privileged — they were, all of them. 

So it was extraordinary to sit for several hours with someone who has her own take on our shared family dramas, who remembers me half a century ago, someone who was there when the elderly siblings dove into their Manhattans before every family celebration, someone who also beheld our formidable great-grandmother swathed in black and swirling snowflakes before the annual Christmas Eve blow-out. The Cheever biography I’m reading disparages autobiography-as-novel, but I think my mother’s family was the ultimate, hair-raising novel.

That’s my beautiful cousin on the right who looks WAAAAY more than 6 years younger!

But if they didn’t do well at emotional expression, they excelled in the kitchen. Thus, as their true descendant (even if I do look like her despised mother-in-law as my mother said all the time), I would rather cook and eat than say something meaningful to someone else or, for that matter, see long-“lost” relatives. Which is why I need to live where there are someones, particularly those who walk and hit the Y (which is what I’m going to do instead of joining Weight Watchers — I have to feel good enough to work out which is only going to happen with some water exercise classes).

My FB friend Peg R. has an interesting proposal, that all of us struggling with food/weight issues commit to being 3 pounds lighter by Jan. 1. (She’s also suggesting each of us be able to do as many pushups by then as we are years old, but that’s not going to happen.) A  manageable goal that should, nevertheless, make us feel that we’re constructively dealing with  the stressful holidays.

By way of a positive beginning, I gained nothing over Thanksgiving. It was more important to do things other than eating and, when eating, to choose the healthy foods. The following Nov. 2010 Cooking Light recipe is my go-to sweet potato casserole for the foreseeable future. Farewell marshmallows and gobs of butter; hello, crisply caramelized and lightly sugared shallots.

Rosemary mashed sweet potatoes with shallots

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons good-quality olive oil, divided

3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 2 large)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 pounds sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over low heat. Add shallots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with sugar; cook 20 minutes or until shallots are golden, stirring occasionally.

Nothing but healthy food and drink as far as the eye can see.

Put sweet potatoes through ricer. Add rosemary, salt and pepper, whisk until blended. Spoon into serving bowl; top with shallots and drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Makes 6 servings of 202 calories, 6.3 fat grams each.

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