Tonya Council Talks Thanksgiving Memories and Mama Dip’s Sweet Potato Pudding

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Mama Dip made sweet potato pudding every year for Thanksgiving

I know my favorite time of the year has arrived and that the holiday season is just around the corner when the summer heat disappears and that cold chill hits the morning air. Fall brings back memories of my grandmother, Mildred Council (aka Mama Dip), and her grated sweet potato pudding, a Thanksgiving tradition.

Fall was the start of the high season at Mama Dip’s Kitchen, where I worked alongside my grandmother as a teenager. Every Thanksgiving Eve, our family and staff would hustle to get meals ready for customers to pick up. I remember looking at the clock, eagerly waiting for when we’d finally be finished with work so that we could start preparing our own family meal for Thanksgiving Day. I knew I’d indulge in Grandma’s grated sweet potato pudding. It tasted like dessert, but we ate it as a side dish, along with collard greens and Grandpa’s chicken. 

sweet potato puddding

I would watch in awe as my grandmother peeled and grated the sweet potatoes. She had an easy, confident approach to cooking – and she didn’t need a recipe. If the dining room wasn’t too busy, I would help her wash, peel and grate the sweet potatoes. I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like her. 

Once the dish was prepped and placed in the oven, I’d stick my head in the kitchen between waiting tables so I could get a whiff of the spices and butter starting to come together as the pudding cooked. As I waited for the timer to go off and the door of the oven to open, I couldn’t help wishing that it was tomorrow already and that we were sitting down together for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Finally, we’d gather at Grandma’s house, where I’d get my huge helping of that sweet potato pudding. My grandmother would watch and chuckle as I struggled to get up from the table after all that delicious indulging.

This recipe is my tribute to my grandmother and to those wonderful Thanksgiving memories.

sweet potato pudding

Sweet potato pudding

Makes 8 to 10 servings

4 cups raw sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup pecan pieces, raisins or coconut, or any of the three in combination (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. Combine the sweet potato, butter, spices, eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup and milk. Stir to mix well. Add the nuts, raisins or coconut, if desired. Pour into a greased, 1 quart baking dish and bake for 50-60 minutes, until well set.

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Chapel Hill Magazine

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