Among all the delicious food that populates the Thanksgiving table, there’s one thing that Black people take very seriously: Yeah, I’m talking about sweet potatoes. Whether you’re doing sweet potato casserole or candied yams, everyone has their own special twist that they put on the dish. I would offer up mine here, but I don’t give away those secrets outside the family. But, no matter what your recipe calls for, the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that MARSHMALLOWS DON’T BELONG ON SWEET POTATOES!
According to Spoon University, this combination became a thing in the early 1900s. Even though they were cheap, marshmallows started out very expensive and were a delicacy reserved for the rich. This sweet treat maintained its high-brow reputation, so if you had them on your table, you were fancy. Imagine a world where marshmallows equaled status.
To the surprise of no one, the pairing officially started with a marketing ploy. Per Saveur, the two were suggested as a thing in a 1917 recipe booklet from Angelus Marshmallows. Really!? We’ve been putting up with this nonsense for over a century because a marshmallow company saw it as a way to sell more marshmallows? That’s like finding out rum and coke was invented by Bacardi. I mean it probably was but you get my point.
By all means, enjoy your holiday the way you want. However, if you put marshmallows on sweet potatoes, you are forcing your friends and family to eat overly sweet baby food. I’m not really a marshmallow person—I don’t think they add anything good to a dish—but they are especially out of place on top of sweet potatoes. They don’t look appetizing and you’re kind of signaling to your guests that you don’t know how to cook candied yams.
As I asked around about this Thanksgiving travesty, I found that all the Black people I spoke to were appalled by the idea, while my white friends didn’t see it as the affront to taste that I thought it was. Though it’s a small sample size, it seems that this may all come down to cultural differences. It may not be on par with raisins in the potato salad, but it is endlessly interesting how wildly different our food language is. Here’s the thing: Food from Black folks is usually better because we know how to use seasonings and staples to enhance a dish, not hide it. If marshmallows made sweet potatoes better and didn’t actually draw attention away from them I’d be on board. Since that’s clearly not the case, it’s a hard pass from me.
If you absolutely must have marshmallows at your dinner table, then use them in dessert, which is the only place where they’re acceptable.