Written By: Dana Pierson
With the Thanksgiving feast just around the corner, University of Missouri- St. Louis students are spending time finalizing their menus. Between culinary classics and traditional staples, choosing a crowd-pleasing side complement to the turkey may seem like daunting task. However, one dish that is sure to be a win is the good ole’ sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. Sound like an odd pairing? UMSL Global takes a deeper look at this unlikely dynamic duo became such an icon to the American Thanksgiving dinner table. Below is a brief history on the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole and a recipe to try!
A Sweet Compliment
Recipes for simple sweet potatoes have been around in the United States for over a century, but documentation of this thanksgiving staple goes further back. Sweet potatoes, a root vegetable originally native to Peru, spanned in popularity throughout South and Central America. However, it wasn’t till Christopher Columbus brought one back to Spain that this vegetable gained global recognition.
Now Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, which was published in 1796, first brought sweet potatoes to the American dinner table. Likewise, with the stateside cookbook boom between the 1800s and 1900s, recipes for sweet potatoes increased. Not to be confused with yams, sweet potatoes can be stored for long periods of time making them a highly desirable mealtime starch.
Sweet Potatoes have been baked, mashed, and basted to buttery perfection. It wasn’t till 1917 though that the topping of marshmallows was introduced as an enhancement to sweet potato recipes. Angelus Marshmallows, who is the parent company of the baseball game-day snack hit Cracker Jacks, wanted to introduce their mass-made creation to their American audience: marshmallows. Despite the product’s release in 1907, marshmallows remained barely touched on grocers’ shelves. Then inspiration struck to hire Janet McKenzie Hill, founder of The Boston Cooking School Magazine, to solve the company’s marketing dilemma. Hill published an associated cookbook featuring marshmallow laced recipes and popularity skyrocketed. Her most beloved recipe: mashed sweet potatoes baked with a marshmallow topping.
Whether you’re a Midwesterner raised on potatoes or you’re an international student celebrating American Thanksgiving for the first time, marshmallows act as a sweet compliment to any standard sweet potato recipe. Try Pillsbury’s Marshmallow-Topped Sweet Potato Recipe; it will sure be a crowd pleaser!