My sainted grandmother used to make a thing that was called sweet potato poon.
It had marshmallows. That’s all I remember about it. That and the year she was NOT DRUNK, NOT DRUNK I TELL YOU and left it under the broiler until the marshmallows caught on fire.
A few years ago, I went looking for a poon recipe. Couldn’t find one. Not online. Not in my Charleston cookbook. Not in my Oklahoma cookbook.
I chalked it up to family tradition, kind of like the Charleston Shorts cookies she made every year, for which there is no recipe on earth.
Wednesday, I was reflecting on my Thanksgiving menu, and out of the clear blue sky, it hit me—maybe she meant pone. I will chalk this inspiration up to Outlander and Charles Frazier. I searched sweet potato pone and bingo—1 million recipes.
I called cousin Lesley and yelled “She meant PONE!” and because we’re family, she knew exactly what I was talking about. Then we conference called all our parents who happen to be staying in one place this week. We had a good laugh about the little ol’ lady from Charleston
“What is pone?” Lesley asked. Good question, especially since the pictures I was looking at online did not look like the poon I remembered. The official definition is unleavened cornbread in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves, originally as prepared with water by North American Indians and cooked in hot ashes.
No mention of marshmallows. Huh.
Thirty seconds after we hung up with our parents, my mom called me back.
“You aunt just went in and turned on the Today show and GUESS WHAT AL ROKER IS MAKING????”
I could hear my grandmother laughing at me all the way from heaven.
PS: My English/Irish/Hawaiian husband cannot hear this word without snickering, thanks to the 70s. Turns out neither could Twitter after Al Roker’s segment, which drove some folks to investigate further and yes, poon is a Southern variation of the word pone.
PPS: I made the poon. I damn near burned the marshmallows. Broilers are a tricky business and it had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SPIKED EGGNOG.