Last week I met via Zoom with two educators—Ms. Kari and Ms. Jasmine—plus student/family participants in a 4-H Sweet Potato Pie Making Project in Sitka, Alaska. My daughter and tech support Eve Carlisle Polley joined me. It proved to be a delightful, fast-paced hour and fifteen-minute get-together joining Sitka and Louisville (over 2,500 miles). Eve and I enjoyed viewing their hands-on cooking adventure as they prepared my Sweet Potato Pie Supreme! Photo gallery below.
The cooking project was interspersed with questions directed to me about the creative writing process as well as about making the recipe included in the book. Also these two skillful facilitators weaved together the following:
- the history behind my children’s book Sweet Potato Pie, Oh My!
- the singing of Nonny’s song of the same name
- a teen’s reading of book character Timmy’s fun day of creative play with his “Nonny”
- and a competitive online game.
Two teen helpers had put in hours of work preparing 50 pie-making kits which were distributed to elementary school age children and their families in the school district. Fresh ingredients were pre-measured and put in zip-lock bags. This included three eggs! Well packed, I’m sure! And sweet potatoes. Families were instructed to peel their sweet potatoes and cook them the evening prior to the day of the Zoom meeting. The school district’s food service donated milk in cartons. And each family was given a pie crust and a spare and even a pie baking pan.
The first instruction given was to make sure hands had been washed and then to pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees in preparation for lightly browning the pre-made pie crust. Of course, every activity was under the watchful eye of a supervising adult and an elementary school child was advised how to participate in an age-appropriate way.
So there was smashing of the warmed cooked sweet potatoes, then adding the bag of brown sugar/ground cloves/cinnamon. In a separate pan, the children combined dry and wet ingredients for the pudding mixture: white sugar, corn starch, and salt plus butter, egg yolks and milk. Their parents cooked the custard on the stove according to Ms. Jasmine’s instructions. Finally our ‘chefs’ and ‘sous-chefs’ blended the warmed pan of sweet potatoes and the pan of pudding. Pouring the Sweet Potato Pie filling into the crust completed everyone’s Sweet Potato Pie Supreme. Even though Nonny’s book encourages eating a slice of the pie immediately after it is made, as it was slightly before dinner time in Sitka—going on 5:30 P.M., the Sitka children were advised families might want to eat the evening meal first and have the pie for dessert.
Even though the illustrator Courtney Coriell Williams was not present in our Zoom meeting, I recognized her as the Louisville artist and teacher with whom I collaborate closely. I give her my scribbley drawings, my photos and the narrative of the story. And with her artist’s paint brush she waves magic into existence. Voilà! A perfect match of my text and her art!
Finally, let me mention the free educational website kahoot.it which Ms. Kari and Ms. Jasmine used to create their own instructional game. It was a winner for all as the children hustled to enter correct answers about the author and the pie-making process.
Then when the children held up their Sweet Potato Pies for inspection (to be given the taste test a little later) and said their ‘thank-you’ to me and Eve in the indigenous Tlingit language, we closed out our Zoom session with smiles on their faces as well as ours!
Photo Gallery: Zooming with Sitka Families – Tap any photo to enlarge
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Photo Gallery: Front covers of the first three books in the series – Illustrations by Courtney Coriell Williams – Tap any photo to enlarge