The invitation read “School is starting soon. Bring a baked product to the Passionate Bakers meeting that you found in your lunch bag or box when you were a child.” This caused a painful rumbling in my memory bank. Oh, yes, I had the popular tin lunch box with Shirley Temple on the lid, the thermos of icy cold milk in its container; either a cold, sliced chicken or roast beef sandwich on Mondays (depending on what we had enjoyed for Sunday dinner the day before), some fruit, and dessert. It was the dessert that triggered the painful memory, though.
Each day at noon at my desk at St. Michael’s Elementary School, I opened my lunchbox, hoping, desiring — willing it to contain a Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet. The lunchbox never granted my wish. Instead, there was a cupcake described by my mother as a Southern Brownie that consisted of a dark-chocolate cake frosted with a coconut pecan topping, and a praline-like, pale-brown icing. I was disappointed daily.
Last Thursday, I thumbed through my mother’s tattered recipe books in search of the Southern Brownie recipe. There, in the fragile pages of the Aunt Jemima Cookbook, I found it! The cake part was a standard dark-chocolate recipe, but the frosting was a heart-stopping, cholesterol-laden confection guaranteed to raise the LDL of all of my colleagues in the Passionate Bakers.
I always ate it, though. And while I was devouring it, I thought of the spongy, pallid, processed dessert of my dreams, available at the Prosperity Grocery Store in three-cupcake deliciousness and costing only eight cents. I never gave my mother’s effort to provide what was considered a wholesome, nutritious treat, a single thought.
Now I know that evaporated milk, three egg yolks, a cup of sugar, shredded coconut and chopped nuts and half a cup of butter was very bad for one, but for a hoydenish, roller-skating little girl of eight, it was simply the dessert my mother provided, the Southern Brownie.
If anyone wants to try the recipe for old times’ sake, be warned. It involves watching, stirring for at least 12 minutes, and much shredding, chopping and setting aside. I do not know if Tastycake is still available. Maybe on Amazon under “Antiquities?”