It will be an unusual holiday for another reason, because many Americans may run short of things to be thankful for. Unless you work for JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs (in which case you’re celebrating Banksgiving, a rather more ostentatious holiday), you may find the fourth Thursday of November presenting challenges to your gratitude this year.
Y’all need to get right with the sweet potato.
There are people who make a career out of locating silver linings in the cumulonimbus array. Something called The Conference Board has found economic activity rising for six straight months, while the third quarter’s US Gross Domestic Product was reported up 3.5 percent. Parsers also seem to find good news in weekly unemployment stats, wherein a drop in unemployment claims by 12,000 is cause to break out party hats and boxes of Franzia.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m looking for the inside skinny, I try to find analysts who adhere to the classic notion that economics is a dismal science. I’m never disappointed by the Duke of Dour, Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, who began his latest broadside this week, “Think the worst is over? Wrong.”
Called a madman when he predicted economic catastrophe back in balmy 2006, Roubini has been disquietingly accurate with his uniformly pessimistic assessments of the great American piggy bank. This time around, instead of green shoots, he sees a job market that’s just plain shot and warns, “If you are unemployed and looking for work and just waiting for the economy to turn the corner, you had better hunker down.“
He’s not much for the happy talk.
Roubini reiterates what many suspected, which is that many jobs lost will never return, and he estimates that unemployment will top out at 11 percent but stay that way for a couple of years. That, in turn, leads to — well, suffice to say that, from an economic perspective, the result makes 2012 look like roller derby.
There’s a possible solution, of course, and, quelle surprise, it involves federal spending. The professor suggests more stimulus with an emphasis on “shovel-ready” infrastructure repair projects. That way, money could reach the local level faster, prodding private sector participants to hire through the judicious utilization of tax credits.
The learned prognosticator does not disclose where he thinks leaders who think this boldly are to be found in sufficient numbers to implement such extraordinary public policy. By now, America may have outsourced even its cojones.
The Grizzled Old Publicans, for instance, are not going to grasp at these straws, in much the way and for most of the same reasons they dissed the idea of massive public works spending back during the Old Depression. Across the aisle, Democrats have been replaced in significant numbers by Dimocrats whose civic will evaporates the closer their orbit takes them to the next election cycle.
Meanwhile, at the local level, how are citizens supposed to trust the facilitators of stimulus, many of whom previously have shown themselves willing to participate in fraud for the enrichment of themselves and their cronies, ascribing it to politics as usual?
We eagerly await politics unusual. In the intervening time, sensible folks are reminding themselves how to hunker down. That’s where the sweet potato comes in. Instead of cranberry chutney or balsamic glazed Brussels sprouts for Thankgiving, I suggest we reacquaint ourselves with this most democratic of vegetables, specifically by way of a thrifty sweet potato pie recipe that’s foolproof, yours truly being the fool that offers the proof.
The sweet potato has its roots — is a root — in South America, first popping up in pots 50,000 years ago. It’s chock-full of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and manganese. The difference between the sweet potato and the yam? There is no U.S. Yam Council.
This recipe is anticlimactic, essentially a custard in a crust, but that’s part of its charm. It is an unassuming dessert. If you feel the nudge to make your own piecrust, have at it. I am not engaged by that process; I will use a store-bought, unbaked pie shell instead.
In a 400-degree oven for about 50 minutes, roast some sweet potatoes. I can’t tell you how many, because they come in so many sizes, but you want to wind up with two cups of steamy orange innards. Throw them into a mixing bowl with half a stick of butter, three beaten eggs, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon each of good vanilla extract and freshly grated nutmeg (not the canned stuff) and a tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
You’ll also want to toss in a quarter-cup of good bourbon. This would seem antithetical to the thrift of the pie, but you’ve probably been drinking pretty heavily ever since your 401(k) turned on you, so you shouldn’t have to buy a jug just to make this recipe.
Mix this goop together and pour it into the pie shell. Slide it, atop a cookie sheet, into the oven, which you’ve kept on at 400 since you roasted the potatoes initially. Cut the temperature to 325 and leave it be for 45 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set. There’s some method involving a clean knife and poking it into the pie to be sure, but who needs the holes?
You will now have completed your link with history, rich in every sense of the word. This is humble food, but humble is how we ought to try to be on a day such as Thanksgiving, especially when gratitude is at a premium.
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.