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Three generations tackle cravings for sweets
August 31, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
I was walking around the kitchen looking for something sweet. I didn’t want a big sweet, just a small nibble of something to satisfy. I looked in the “candy cupboard” and found an old box of Whitman’s samplers. The choice items were removed. There remained a raspberry cream dried to a frosty chocolate and an almond hazelnut caramel now suitable for cementing. I was just going to settle for last Christmas’s candy cane, soft and marbled, when I remembered sugar sandwiches. Ah, Grandma.
I liked to visit Grandma after school. She made “sugar sandwiches” for me. She took “oleo-margarine” and spread it lightly on white bread. The bread wasn’t Wonder but probably the generic brand from the old Loblaw’s grocery store.
Grandma would cut the open-faced sandwich into four quarters, never triangles. She would dip each quarter, butter side down, into the dark green sugar bowl that always sat next to its always-empty matching creamer. I can picture Grandma’s fingers, bowed a bit by arthritis, gently tapping the side of the bowl to let loose the excess sugar. Satisfied that there was just the right amount, she would place the sweet slice directly onto her granddaughter’s “patty.” Ah, perfect. Sugar sandwiches. I’ll make one.
As I ventured to the bread drawer, I realized that I didn’t have anything even close to white bread. I had 12-grain and all-natural oat, which seemed a bit too healthy for my quest, but I ventured on, a sweet tooth calling.
I opened the fridge to find my “butter” was not only “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” but it was the “light” version. Oh, Grandma would turn over ... at oleo margarine light.
Nonetheless, I continued my quest.
I don’t own a sugar bowl — I drink coffee black and eat cereal bare — so I went to the canister. It didn’t seem the same to “dip” the square into the whole canister of sugar, so I poured a little sugar in a little bowl. After buttering the bread, cutting it into squares and dipping it into the bowl, my sugar sandwich tasted just fine. Thanks, Grandma.
I savored the crunchy, sweet sugar and thought. I don’t remember what my mother did when she needed a sweet fix. I don’t ever remember her making sugar sandwiches.
Then I remembered. With my fingers still sticky from one’s generation’s sweet remedy, I raced to the cookbooks and retrieved the little book full of the heartbreakingly familiar, fountain-pen cursive recipes.
“OneMinute Oatmeal Candy,” the cocoa-stained page read.
Oh, busboy, I had made these a hundred times, but I hadn’t thought of them in a hundred years. I want one. I can see them, taste them. Oh, Mom.
I read though the recipe. Yippee, I have all the ingredients. Simple. Oh, but there are no directions. Can I remember? Oh, yes: Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. I put this memory together in about five minutes.
Don’t you need a sweet treat right now? Thanks, Mom, for my memory and this memory:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
3 Tablespoon(s) unsweetened cocoa or 1-ounce baker’s chocolate melted in the margarine 2 cups granulated sugar
Dash of salt
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and set aside.
In large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, salt, butter or margarine. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue boiling for one minute without stirring. Remove pan from heat. Immediately add remaining ingredients; mix well.
Working quickly, drop mixture by tablespoonfuls or a small scoop onto cookie sheets. Refrigerate.
Try to eat just one.
What I have learned: Make these candies just as directed, and after you make it hundreds of times you learn that you need a little more if using old-fashioned oats, you don’t really need nuts, as the oats are nutty enough. If you boil it too long, the cookies get dry and hard. If you don’t boil it long enough, they don’t set.
I checked the Internet just to see what others might be doing or what might have changed in this last 60 years. I found many variations, but none as simple and straightforward as Mom’s. Most included peanut butter or evaporated milk, or Nutella, and any amount of chocolate. I found one recipe that uses less fat (I will try it the next time I need a sweet): It calls for two cups white sugar, a half-cup of cocoa, a quarter-cup of butter, a half-cup of milk, one teaspoon of vanilla, and three cups of quick oats.
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