Thanksgiving became an official holiday in 1863 during Abraham Lincoln’s administration, and most U.S. Presidents have put sweet potatoes on their holiday tables ever since. It’s too soon to say what Donald Trump will serve when he occupies the White House, but you can try the Obamas’ sweet potato recipe from my Boston Globe article. The recipe below, attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, comes from The Presidents’ Own White House Cookbook (Culinary Arts Institute, Chicago, 1968). Apparently, Roosevelt was so fond of sweet potatoes that people sometimes called them “Roosevelt potatoes.”
I adapted the Roosevelt original recipe calling for six potatoes. Once you grate the potatoes and put them in a baking dish, there’s little more to do. The book also gives Herbert Hoover’s sweet potato recipe, made with cream, walnuts, and marshmallows. I prefer the healthy, unadorned Roosevelt version – rough and ready for all the other components of Thanksgiving.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Favorite Baked Sweet Potatoes (circa 1901)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste [I also sprinkled in nutmeg]
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking pan.
- 2. Place the grated potatoes in mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Place in the mixing bowl and smooth the top of the mixture with the back of a spoon.
- 3. Sprinkle the water over the top of the potatoes. Dot with butter.
- Bake until the potatoes are soft and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.