Sweet Potato Pie Has Deep Roots

My friend, Rose McGee, has a passion for life, a passion for people, and a passion for food, especially sweet potato pie.

I met Rose several years ago when I first joined Women Who Really Cook, a Twin-Cities-based networking organization for women who work in a food-related career. Rose is also a member, and at the time I first met her, she was getting her new business, Deep Roots Desserts, off the ground.

I asked Rose if she’d help us celebrate Black History Month by sharing a recipe for Sweet Potato Pie that she developed along with some of her thoughts. You’ll feel Rose’s warmth and passion as you read what she has to say in response to some questions I asked.

On Saturday, February 27th, at 1:00, you can meet Rose during a celebration of Black History Month at Macy’s downtown Minneapolis store. You’ll get the sweet-and-lowdown from Rose, owner of Deep Roots Desserts, on baking sweet potato pie. Rose will show you why her famous pie received the prestigious honor to be chosen for a 2009 Presidential Inauguration party in Washington, D.C. Writer, producer and director of  “Kumbayah…The Juneteenth Story,” the multi-talented Rose is currently completing her next book, Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie Like My Mama, a book that joyfully captures the history of the sacred dessert of African Americans — the sweet potato pie, of course.

I hope you’ll make Rose’s pie. It may not taste exactly like Rose’s own homemade pie, or her Mama’s, or her grandmother’s, but for sure it will be delicious!

Thanks for sharing, Rose!

1. What is the history of sweet potato pie — yours especially?

A form of this dessert traces back to the Renaissance Era in terms of mixing spices with sweet potatoes. However, what we know as a "sweet potato pie" today goes back to slavery in this country. Later Dr. George Washington Carver did a great deal of research not only with the peanut, but with the sweet potato as well. His is one of the first recorded recipes. BUT not the first. You’ll have to read my book for that little tidbit.

Over time the dessert became what I consider to be the "sacred dessert" of black culture. However, the inspiration for my making the pies began over 30 years ago by accident. I was young, wanted to impress some guests and decided to try making one,. Total flop. Called my grandmother for some guidance. Over time, I began adding a bit of this and a bit of that and came up with my interpretation of her pie and my aunt’s pie and my friend’s grandmother’s pie…you get the picture. One thing about the whole process of trying to get everyone’s recipe whose pie I respected – NO ONE had their recipe written down. It was all recorded in their heads and moreso their hearts. Thus the reason it’s so important to publish this book, "Can’t Nobody Make A Sweet Potato Pie Like My Mama," a book that joyfully captures the history of the sacred dessert of African Americans – the sweet potato pie of course.


2. How did you decide to start making your pies for sale?

 

 

 

I began selling my sweet potato pies at the Minneapolis Farmers Market in 2005.  I was inspired to sell them at the market by several members of Women Who Really Cook who were also selling products there.  Later, when the

opened, I started selling them inside this wonderful new market instead.

 

 

 

 

3. Sweet potato pie is something that people in this region may not know about. Have you had to do a lot of educating about sweet potato pie?

 

 

 

 

It’s so funny.  People here (many of them any way) want to say, "Oh sweet potato pie…that’s like pumpkin, right?"

 

Ha!  For most, they taste my pie and go, "No not like pumpkin pie AT ALL!"  For some, they go, "Yep! Like I thought tastes like pumpkin."  But, no…not like pumpkin to me AT ALL.  It’s fun sharing that a "yam" is indeed a "sweet potato".  That’s a whole chapter in my book.  Sweet potatoes comes in hundreds of varieties.  The term yam is a derivative from a West African word, "ayame" which is what we know as the "yam" that grows in other countries.  That yam is a very large, starchy tubular thing.  However, when the Africans were brought here as captives, saw the sweet potato, many referred to it as "ayame". Over time as good southerners tend to do, the word was shortened to "yam", especially around the Louisiana region.  So, there is no way in the world today, some folks are going to believe a yam is a sweet potato – no way.  Too funny!
 

4.  Why was it so important to you to take such a big risk to start a business with just one product for sale?
 
Actually I have several products now, but they are in the sweet potato for mango family. The products also come in a variety of sizes.  Products include: traditional sweet potato pie, chocolate sweet potato pie, garlic sweet potato cornbread and mango cobbler.  I have a "Sweet Potato Pie On a Stick" that I sell in August (no I don’t sell them at the Fair, but I should, eh?).  Like most small business owners, I have a deep passion for the product, a few folks seem to enjoy them, so I sell and hopefully bring a bit of joy, good taste and culture into their lives.  I’m still waiting for that BIG order to come in so I can make real money.  Can anyone hook a sistah up? Ha!
 

 

5.  When do people eat sweet potato pie? (Some may think it is a dessert for autumn or winter)
 
On the surface and according to my tax receipts – autumn.  The holidays are the popular times, especially Thanksgiving.  In the black culture, the sweet potato pie tends to show up for special events such as church functions, funerals, family reunions, etc.
But, I find that selling them year-round is important.  Black folks want the pie, believe theirs is the best,  yet don’t really want to make them, so it works out.  Other cultures taste it – maybe even for the first time, realize it’s a great alternative to whatever it is they’ve been missing and become good customers.  It’s a challenge, but hey!  It’s all good!
 

 

6.  What was it like to have your pies at the Presidential Inauguration? How did that happen?

 
Senator Amy Klobuchar invited 10 Minnesota Foods to Washington D.C. on the day of the Inauguration.  My pie was one of those invited among Hormel, Sweet Martha’s etc.  That was an honor indeed.  However, I didn’t get invited…go figure!

7.  Where can readers purchase your pies if they don’t want to make it themselves?
 
On select Saturdays I sell them at a "day table" not a shop located in the Mid-Town Global Market (the old Sears Building located at Lake Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis).  I generally sell in an area of the market referred to as "Kitchen In The Market" (which is where I bake).  However this coming Saturday our day table will be in the main food court area with pies for sale. Otherwise they can be ordered easier by calling (763) 544-9366.

8.  Anything else you want to tell us?

 
I encourage folks to try the recipe and PLEASE let me know what you think by emailing me at rtist528@aol.com .  And of course stay tuned for the book.  That will be several months yet, but it’s coming! 
 

Thanks,

Rose

Sweet Potato Pie

A Recipe Created by Rose McGee, Owner Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts

Ingredients (makes two 9” Pies):

  • 4 sweet potatoes, cooked
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1-stick of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk (whole, evaporated or condensed)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 unbaked pie shells

Directions: (use a hand-mixer or KitchenAid™ type mixer)

In a large mixing bowl, mash cooked sweet potatoes.

Blend in sugar. Blend in eggs. Blend in melted butter.

One at a time, add next 6 ingredients; mix well.

Pour into pie shells.

Preheat oven at 400 degrees; then reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Bake 60 minutes or until well set. Remove from oven.

Allow to set for at least 30 minutes. Eat warm or allow

to cool longer before eating. Sweet potato pie can be left at room

temperature up to two days without refrigeration. Can be refrigerated

up to one week and remain fresh. Can also be frozen.

More about Rose:

Rose McGee was born in Jackson, Tennessee and grew up around women who cooked. Her grandmother, great-grandmothers, great aunts and home economics teacher all stressed the importance of knowing how to manage a home and especially the kitchen.  Today, she is one of 400 Minnesota ladies who make up the organization, Women Who Really Cook. Her business, Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts™ features her own delicious and exotic creations - Sweet Potato Pie and Mango CobblerOver the past four years, these products have gained tremendous popularity at the Midtown Global Market, the Minneapolis Farmers Market, Twin Cities Food and Wine Show and received accolades from Sue Zellickson in Minnesota Monthly Magazine and WCCO Radio.  Appreciative customers always say, “It’s the best!”

 

Rose McGee has been featured in Food Network News, Edible Twin Cities Magazine, KARE 11 and Fox Channel 9.  She recently demonstrated how to make organic Sweet Potato Pie at the Minnesota State Fair while her original Chocolate Sweet Potato Pie has been a delight at the Twin Cities Chocolate Extravaganza. The Calhoun Coffee Festival honored Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts with “The Best Taste Award”. 

7 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Pie Has Deep Roots

  1. Thanks for stopping by our table…and we are so glad to know about yours! Love, love the Sweet Potato Pie interview. We will definitely be back!
    ~kristin and chris ann

  2. This is a blessing! This is a great interview. It will really help me educate my fiancee. Why is that so important? He is Caucasian and I am African-American. Lol! We had Thanksgiving with his family and everyone was all the rage about the pumpkin pie. It was delicious, however, he was wondering why I kept saying I really want a good piece of Sweet Potato pie. He didn’t get it! My mom makes like 5 for me (she lives in a different city) and she sends them to me. He just didn’t understand the cultural reference. This is going to be a blast! We love learning about each other, and this article did all the work for me. Whew! Thanks:)

  3. Just stopped by this website…will be making this pie for my grandson, will also use this recipe for my bean pies/brown and raw sugar only in this one. You are a delight and I hope to see more recipes for Greens/TeaCakes/Lemon Cake/Red Cabbage, I need healing for a bone marrow disease, this will help me.
    God Bless You,
    Alexis

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