Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet tooths, 2009, and Saturday mornings, circa 1979

I've been on a baking binge lately, making cookies for Christmas. So far I've made sugar cookies, cranberry-orange shortbread, and a cocoa-pecan variation of Mexican wedding cookies. Some people call Mexican wedding cookies Russian tea cakes, but I added dark cocoa powder and didn't roll them in powdered sugar after baking them, so these look more like lumps of coal rather than any Mexican or Russian party treats. Also on my list today are jam thumbprints and a pan of blondies. I might make a batch of cheesecake bars tomorrow, and I'll definitely be making a big ol' birthday cake for my father-in-law on the 26th. I like to bake but normally I don't keep a lot of sweets in the house. However, it's been a downhill slide starting with the Halloween candy two months ago. I figure I might as well have a huge dessert blowout before the new year, then try to correct all the dietary damage in January. Plus, we've got three family get-togethers this week and I'm counting on my relatives to make a dent in all this.

At two and a half, Ally is too young to help me make the cookies, but she sure does enjoy eating them. She seems to prefer the old fashioned sugar cookies over the others. I don't think the nut, cranberry, or orange flavors appeal to her sophisticated toddler palate just yet. However, she's all about those red and green sugar crystals on the sugar cookies. Ally's preference for raw sugar over other flavors got Steve and me thinking about some of the things we ate as kids.

I remember being around ten and eating anything sweet, preferably chocolate flavored and the gooier the better. As kids I think we lean towards quantity over quality, and now I can't imagine consuming some of the sugar and fat laden sweets I ate when I was younger. Hostess snack cakes were some of the best treats you could ask for when I was young. Marshmallow covered Snoballs, creme filled Suzy Qs, deep fried and glazed fruit pies, tubular swirled Ho Hos, and of course the ubiquitous Twinkies. Then there were the little bite-sized donuts coated with either powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or a waxy chocolate glaze. Somehow these always seemed to be dry and stale, but no matter, I ate them anyways. And the two-pack of pecan rolls that you could find on the bottom shelves at the 7-Eleven. Pop-Tarts, Charleston Chews, Cocoa Puffs, chocolate milk, and pink bubble gum ice cream. I ate it all and I don't know if I ever would have turned down a second helping of any of it.

I suppose we can claim that our palates are more sophisticated when we're older, that we can recognize the quality of gourmet over plebeian store bought, and that oversized portions are childish and distasteful. In reality, I think it's because we find that most of what we ate as kids is revoltingly sticky-sweet and guaranteed to turn our stomachs at the third mouthful. Now I can barely think of packaged pecan rolls or a breakfast cereal that turns the milk chocolate without gagging.

Both of my parents worked on Saturdays when I was young. Once I was old enough, they would leave me by myself at the house. I'm not sure what they imagined I did alone on those mornings, but I had a grand time rolling out of bed just moments before my favorite cartoons started and then letting my brain rot in front of the TV. I'd sit in my PJs for hours and watch Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, the Flintstones, the Smurfs, and really, anything else that came on before the stations started showing old Western movies in the afternoon. I remember that Dad would call around 11:00 am and practically beg me to go brush my teeth and get dressed, which I would eventually do, grudgingly. I'm sure I ate something or other for breakfast, but my favorite thing to do was to make an ice cream sundae.


I'd trudge into the kitchen in my PJs and look in the freezer for any ice cream we might have. Usually it was Breyer's or High's ice cream. Dad preferred butter pecan or butter brickle. Mom and I liked the chocolate varieties. If I was lucky I'd find fudge ripple or something of the like. If it was a primarily vanilla flavor, no matter, because it wasn't going to taste like vanilla by the time I was done making my sundae.


After carving out two or three big scoops into a bowl, I'd start rummaging around the cabinets for anything to spruce up the sundae. Cookie sprinkles or decorations were fair game, along with powdered hot chocolate mix, chocolate syrup, or miniature marshmallows. I'd also add crumbled cookies, nuts, Cool-Whip, or maybe even chocolate chips.

I distinctly remember adding powdered nondairy creamer on the top of the bowl one time. Lots of it.


Then I would eat every last bit of it up, sometimes sitting on the kitchen counter even thought I wasn't supposed to do that. I didn't make those Saturday morning sundaes very often because we didn't always have ice cream in the house. I probably made them no more than three or four times, but the memory of them sticks with me. I can't imagine that these mishmash concoctions really tasted that good, but maybe it was the illicit taste of unsupervised freedom that I enjoyed. Certainly I knew that this breakfast would not garner parental approval and I never would dared to make one of these in front of my parents. I'm sure I had at least a twinge of a stomach ache afterwards, but that might have been more the result of guilt instead of an overdose of sugar, fat, and artificial flavorings and colorings. No doubt some day I'll come into the kitchen unexpectedly and find Ally perched on the counter, her feet swinging in the air and with a spoonful of some godawful combination of desserts, sugar, and syrup halfway to her mouth. I'll recognize that sweet taste of freedom, mourn my long-lost cast iron stomach, and remind Ally to ask if she needs any Pepto-Bismol later that day.


JILB said...

I had to absolutely giggle as you told your "breakfast" story. In my family we have an amnesty rule each Christmas. After 4 years have past we can tell a story about something done unknown by the others without retribution. It makes for some interesting and manytimes side splitting belly laughs. Maybe a new tradition for your family?? hehehe

Tree Dellinger said...

JILB, what a lovely tradition you have! My only problem would be having to "save" the stories for Christmas. I'm far too likely to tell one out of the blue when the mood hits me.