Last week’s Monday Memory concerned the preparation and eating of certain favorite desserts. This week’s topic is related: desserts with sugar.
Um, “desserts with sugar” – isn’t that sort of like “toast with bread” or “oatmeal with oats”? What I mean is, desserts that aren’t much more than sugar.
In a family of people with fierce sweet teeth, something had to fill that craving when there wasn’t much in the pantry beyond the basics. Sweet dishes that could be put together quickly. Sweet dishes that could be concocted by a little kid. Sweet dishes that most adults would find revolting. (Not my father, though. Nothing was too sweet for him.)
Sweet dish #1: Cinnamon toast. This was a favorite breakfast in my childhood. It doesn’t have to be totally revolting, because the sugar can be kept to a minimum. As I remember it, however, the sugar was usually piled on in a pretty thick layer (with butter underneath and cinnamon on top). This dish is also improved by using some of the more solid and flavorful breads. Of course, the bread we used was the only kind that was ever to be found in our house – white bread.
Sweet dish #2: Peanut butter and syrup. Yeah, pretty disgusting. But as a child, I looked forward to eating peanut butter and syrup all smushed together with bits of toast mixed in. This was also usually a breakfast dish.
Sweet dish #3: Peanut brittle. Usually without the peanuts. I learned at an early age how to caramelize sugar in the frying pan, and after that all I needed for a sugary afternoon snack was for there to be sugar in the house.
Sweet dish #4: OK, it’s actually a legitimate, non-icky sweet food item: Sugar cookies. I include it here because of the name and because it’s the other dessert that I learned to make when I was young, around 10-12 years old. This skill became a source of power for me. Power with my brother Don, that is. Even earlier, when I was only about 8 or 9, I learned how to get some leverage with my older (by 8 years) brother. I became his bank. Don liked to go out with his friends, usually to get things like burgers, root beer floats, or whatever. His allowance and earned money did not last long. I saved my money. So Don would come to me, the most malleable member of the family, when he ran out of his own money. He promised to pay me back double, and he kept his word. So he always knew I would give him the money, and I always knew he would pay me back. Still, it was a heady feeling for a little kid, and he had to be nice to me.
Oh, yes, the sugar cookies. Don and his best friend John, who was such a fixture around our house that my mother referred to him as Son Number Two, were totally addicted to sugar cookies. When Mom wasn’t there to make them, I would make the cookies for them. They didn’t have to be just nice to me, they had to be really nice. And pay me (another reason why I always had money in my piggy bank). One day, when I was going over to a friend’s house and didn’t have the time to make the cookies, I wrote out the recipe so that they could make their own.
When I returned later in the afternoon, they were waiting for me. They were pathetic. Their cookies had ended up running all over the pan and were flat and burned. The “add flour until consistency is solid” apparently had not sunk in with them. I took pity on them. After they paid me.