I love my girls! My friend, Dana, called this evening just to chit-chat and, just like always, we laughed and laughed. Her little sister, Dawn, had been in the hospital all week and was FINALLY allowed to go home. Thankfully, she’s on the mend. Part of our conversation was the topic of Dawn’s best friend, Alyson. For those of you who didn’t grow up here, Alyson is Andrea’s baby sister. Isn’t that great? We’re all friends, laughing a mile a minute. We have massive amounts of dirt on each other, but in the South, we glorify that. And we DON’T rat on each other. We feel it makes us special. And scandal gives us color. Alyson helped Dawn with those incredibly personal things that only a sister or mother will do. She spent the night in the hospital so Dawn’s husband could go home. And after that, helped her bathe and took her to get her hair done. THAT’S a true, blue friend. Anyway, Dana and I would segue off onto some silly girlie tangent, like I just did, about all of us. We laughed when Dana mentioned how we used to dance at her house for her parents. Full out, go in the living room and put on a show. And her parents never made fun of us. Heck, sometimes they’d get up, dance with us and jitter bug the night away. We all went to each other’s birthday parties. First wearing black, patent leather Mary Janes, then into tennis shoes, and on into Go-Go boots. I have the black and whites to prove it. We grew up on streets parallel to each other, right side by side. I was on Sea Island, Ang and Al on Barcelona, Dana and Dawn on Aqua Vista. As young girls, we rode our bikes to each other’s houses. Back then, there were still a few vacant lots on the islands so we might end up in the shade under the canopy of some big Florida oak. Just wiling away another hot afternoon. We walked to the bus stop in junior high and the early years of high school, together, sometimes talking, sometimes not. And in the afternoon, same thing, opposite direction. We each had our own daily MAJOR problem. I remember it felt as tho weight of the world was on our bony shoulders. Our conversations were quiet, no big deal, scattered snippets of our safe, little lives. I don’t remember any problems, except one of mine. Would my father let me go to “the store” to get an outfit for that weekend’s party? My father had a women’s clothing store and it was the hottest place in town. Remember, we’re talking pre-Galleria days. I’d say if not getting the latest outfit is YOUR biggest problem, you’re doing okay. We all saw each other day in, day out. And we spent the night at each other’s houses on Friday and Saturday nights. Saturdays were always spent at the beach or shopping. Sometimes we’d get along, and sometimes there would be a small explosion and you wouldn’t see a sister for a couple of days. She’d make herself scarce. But then it would all melt away and there we’d be, trudging back to the bus stop for school. We just accepted walking to the bus stop, never noticing that our route was through one of the most beautiful areas of South Florida. Our bus stop was at a gas station, Pier 66 on Las Olas. Walt was the owner, and with his son, Wally, they would take care of our parent’s cars and always allow us to fill our bike tires with their air. There was also a small, family run market a few doors down. Everybody had a house charge so, when you thought you could get away with it, you’d charge a little candy after school. Heath Bars, Bazooka, Mary Jane’s, sour apple bubble gum and fireballs were popular favorites. If you knew you’d get in trouble for charging or you had to pay for it and you barely had any money, there were also large, rectangular sheets of taffy, about a foot long and half a foot wide, in all different shades and rainbow-colored, for 5¢. A NICKEL! Everyone HATED that taffy, but if that’s all you could get… and you wanted some sugar… well, I ate A LOT of taffy. How we were never thrown into hypoglycemic shock, I’ll never know. As we got older, driving and dating, our happy encounters were at the hallowed halls of Fort Lauderdale High School or standing in the keg line at parties. There was such a beautiful ease to our relationships. We all moved away for school, moved back, maybe moved around a bit more. We’d just fall in and fall out with the tempo of the times. Luckily, we all recognize how fortunate we are. I can go a year without talking to Andrea. But on her birthday, when her phone rings and she hears someone whistling the ENTIRE “Happy Birthday” into her telephone without ANY hesitation or self-consciousness, she knows it’s ME. ME. And no one else. And if I hear the sweet, chirping of Jiminy Cricket, I know my Ang is right around the corner and just a laugh away. (She’s the only person I’ve ever known who can replicate that darling chirp!) It’s a beautiful rhythm. We’re concerned about each other’s parents and all our children. I used to see Effie, the nickname I had for Andrea and Alyson’s father, F.J., at the Dixie. I’d get so excited. I’d chew that sweet man’s ear off. He is just the NICEST man. It’s wonderful when we see each other and then, clairvoyantly, voice each other’s thoughts. Or we hear a song, and BAM! We’re propelled back into somebody’s kitchen or bedroom, riding bikes or back to that 2nd grade classroom with the teacher nobody liked.
Do you want to know a secret,
Do you promise not to tell, whoa oh, oh.
Let me whisper in your ear,
Say the words you long to hear,
I’m in love with you…”
This bread, Sweet Potato Bread, is what I like to take to a friend who needs a little love and care. I’ll grant you, it does take some time, but the recipe yields TWO loaves! One for you and one for me!! I love the spicy aroma that fills my house while it’s baking. And it always looks spectacular, all golden and glossy. It’s Bill Neal’s recipe from his book entitled, “Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie”. It’s fabulous lightly toasted with a little butter or peanut butter. It also pairs REALLY well with a cold, spicy crab or shrimp salad. Something about sweet, spicy and savory. It’s just gorgeous and delicious with a rich crumb. Oh, and, somehow, the oats just meld into the dough. I often send it to James at school. It’s perfect on the fly with a quick smear of any nut butter. I love it toasted with my morning cafe con leche. And it is most excellent in the afternoon as a quick pick me up. Enjoy!!
Sweet Potato Yeast Bread
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 1/4 warm water
- 1 cup milk, fat-free is fine
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, that’s one stick
- 1 1/2 cup cooked, mashed, cold sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, please don’t use that jarred, powdered stuff
- 5 cups all-purpose flour, I always combine 2-3 cups white whole wheat with 2-3 cups unbleached all-purpose
- 1 cup uncooked oats, quick is fine but not instant
- 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk
- Dissolve the dry yeast in the warm water.
- Heat the milk with the sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. If I’m short on time I’ll even put it in the freezer for short period to cool.
- Cream the butter and the sweet potatoes well. Add the dissolved yeast, the milk mixture, and then all the dry ingredients. Beat very well, then turn out onto a floured surface.
- Knead vigorously until satiny, about 10 minutes.
- Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch down, and using a dough scraper or knife, divide into two equal portions.
- Divide 1 portion into 3 equal parts. Roll each part out to make a rope. Place side by side on an ungreased sheet. Braid and tuck the ends under. Cover loosely and let rise about an hour or until doubled.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400° for about 20 minutes, then brush with the beaten egg and continue baking 15 minutes more for a total of 35 minutes.
- The loaves should be a lovely, deep honeyed color.
- Bask in your cleverness!