I never got to buy hot lunch. I considered this a great injustice in the third grade, when everyone who was cool got to stand in line, pass two dollars to the lunch lady in exchange for a piece of pizza cut with scissors, fruit cocktail, and a carton of milk on a plastic tray. It seemed so grown-up, to be part of the world of commerce, eating food your mother hadn’t made. I longed for that kind of freedom, which I simply wasn’t experiencing with my once-a-week allowance for dessert. My lunches were always well-balanced and made with love. Very embarrassing and far too babyish for someone as worldly as I felt at age eight.
To mitigate my humiliation at being so well-cared for, I went for what I considered the most sophisticated ice cream novelty sold for thirty-five cents in the Joel School cafeteria, which I kept in a red rubber change purse you had to squeeze closed to open. The toasted almond bar. God, it was heaven. Crunchy bits, sweet white “vanilla” ice cream, I even liked the wooden stick which I would hold onto as long as I could, letting the last of it linger in my mouth while our tables were called and we spilled our refuse and freezer packs into garbage cans, then queued up to file back to class.
I remember the din of a hundred kids kicking their feet on metal benches, teasing and trading secrets for sandwiches. Life was simpler then. I made these blondies as a way to reminisce; the only way to time travel is food.
Toasted Almond Blondies
Adapted from a recipe in How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 scant teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 x 8 inch pan. In a dry skillet toast almonds and walnuts over medium-high heat until fragrant – careful not to burn. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream butter and sugar. Add egg, vanilla and almond extracts. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Incorporate dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in nuts. Spread mixture into the pan, bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow them to cool in the pan, then cut into squares.