Like most everyone, my mother and I had our fair share of battles over food. I don't think I was an especially finicky eater. I accepted the wheat germ being thrown into our cookie dough. I got over the fact that I had cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on wheat when everyone else's moms gave them bologna and Kraft singles on white. I was even quite fond of all of those things most kids hate... like liver and onions and lima beans.
Was I a dream child? Well, I'd say yes, but my mother would most likely disagree. I just chose my battles and I fought them hard. Remember those clown cones that Baskin-Robbins used to sell? They were scoops of ice cream decorated with frosting to look like clowns, complete with a cone on top as a hat. Yeah, well I never got to have one of those. I had to get a regular ice cream cone, one that didn't look like anything more special than, well, an ice cream cone.
My mom was also a proponent of making our pancakes with the eggs from our pet chickens. The rich orange yolks turned the pancakes into a shocking gold color. I abhorred those pancakes. Sorry Mom... they were the wrong color. These things were very very important to, well, maybe just to me.
And then there was the issue of how to cut the sandwiches. All of my friends' sandwiches were cut on the diagonal and somehow to me that translated into far more delicious lunches than my sandwiches which were cut into rectangles. It hardly seemed relevant that they were made out of completely different ingredients.
Do you see a theme here? It was already a forgone conclusion - I'd lost the battle over healthy food. It was there to stay. Whenever I turned my back I can guarantee you yogurt or wheat germ or spinach was thrown into something it had no business being a part of. So I gave in. But I was hellbent on winning the war over attractive food. And I was vocal about it. Sorry mom.
In the last 10 years or so I've come to really appreciate what my mom did for us, bravely soldiering on with that battle over healthy food. After spending the better part of my college years surviving off of Cap'n Crunch, ramen and Burger King Whoppers (with bacon, naturally), I came back around to food that spent a little less time in a factory and a little more time in a field. I was brainwashed from infancy. Now I pine after whole grains and covet leafy greens. It is beyond my control.
So all consuming is this indoctrination that I have little interest in sweets. Oh sure, I'll eat them when they're around, but as most anyone can tell you, I eat whatever is around. Rarely do I play favorites. I love to bake sweets for others, but a treat for myself? No... hardly ever. There is only one sweet I make for myself and myself alone. I have never made enough to share and I'm not sure I ever will. Not because I'm greedy, because with food I always prefer it with friends. It's because this little sweet is so very modest and, let's face it, just a little bit healthy. I started making it because it reminded me of something I had when I was little, but I can't for the life of me remember what. It's just a cookie that takes me back to being a kid. I guess I can credit my mom with this being my favorite sweet. I actually appreciate it more than she can know. As far as I can tell, my life seems a little less complicated without chocolate cravings.
And as far as that war over attractive food... I'll go ahead and name myself the victor. I came home from work on my 21st birthday to find that in my absence my roommate had let my parents into my room which they filled with balloons. In the room was a note to check the freezer. I opened the freezer to find not one, but two boxes of those clown cones I'd been whining adorably (my interpretation of events) about for the last 18 years. Best. Day. Ever. So Mom, I'm sorry for bringing up the clown cones whenever I wanted to make you feel guilty. You know I just did it to annoy you. I'm now completely okay with regular ice cream cones and sandwiches cut into rectangles. The jury's still out on the golden pancakes though.
Jam Tart Cookies
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison**
** If you're like me and prefer not very sweet sweets, this book is fantastic. Her cakes are fantastic.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup turbinado or natural cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp favorite spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup fig preserves (or cherry)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cups rolled oats
Splash of heavy cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat till smooth. Add all dry ingredients except the rolled oats. If it's a little dry add a splash of heavy cream.
Set aside 1 cup of the dough and press the rest into a pie or 9-inch tart pan. Spread the preserves over the top. Mix the reserved dough with the oats and gently press it over the top, trying to cover all of the preserves. Sprinkle sea salt lightly over the top. Bake until lightly browned on top, about 40 mins. Let cool before cutting.