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Column: Why topping sweet potato casserole with pecans is the only right choice
Sweet potato casserole

Sweet potato casserole should be topped with pecans, never marshmallows.

Marshmallows are for s’mores, hot chocolate and little else.

That’s an opinion that won’t be debated at my Thanksgiving table. 

We may debate over the value of Lululemon attire — overpriced and unnecessarily confusing athletic wear, in my opinion. I mean, I had to YouTube directions on how to wear this Christmas present, and two years later I still haven’t figured it out. Other members of my family continue to fill their Christmas lists with Lululemon attire. 

We may debate over how much ukulele music is permitted on Thanksgiving — my mom preferring to play her ukulele before and after and maybe even during dinner, and the rest of us preferring, well, a little less ukulele.

And we may debate politics. 

It seems political debates can ruin family gatherings these days. Thankfully that hasn’t happened in my family. 

When discussing basically anything, we should all listen more and talk less. That’s standard advice that would get a like on Facebook from those of any political persuasion. 

Of course, it’s hard to actually take that advice and put it into practice.

So, some of us just avoid political talk all together. Others of us avoid talking with people with whom we disagree.

I don’t mind a good debate, personally. I learn more that way. But I have also learned that asking questions can be more productive than arguing my side.

If you’re heading to a Thanksgiving table anxious about what direction the conversations may go, try entering the discussion with a question: What led you to those beliefs?

Heck, maybe try an experiment and only ask questions.

Maybe it won’t help. Or maybe it will.

Or maybe you’ll forget all about this advice and just dig into some sweet potatoes topped, incorrectly, with toasted marshmallow.

I make sweet potatoes every year, using a recipe my grandmother copied decades ago from some cookbook. The recipe calls for a topping of pecans mixed with butter, brown sugar and flour. 

I do cut the amount of sugar in half — the potatoes have sweet in the name after all — but there will always be pecans on my sweet potato casserole. The added crunch goes perfectly with the mashed sweet potatoes.

My grandmother and I could argue about a lot of things. She hated my husband’s beard — and all men’s facial hair. I thought that sweater she bought me one Christmas was hideous.

We didn’t talk a lot about politics, but I do know she wouldn’t vote for a woman — so we certainly disagreed about that and likely could have disagreed about more.

I only recall one conversation about that belief, though. I don’t think I was going to change her mind, but I think she understood she wasn’t going to change mine. 

I know how her background led her to that belief, and I could respect her choice while continuing to believe she was wrong.

But we both enjoyed sweet potatoes with pecans on top, while my Papa despised sweet potatoes no matter what you put on them.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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