Friday, February 13, 2009

Groovy baby

Back when I was an adolescent in a section of Boston renowned for being ‘tough’, ‘working-class’, and other evocative adjectives beloved by journalists trying to describe the New Kids on the Block, we experienced an influx of people not from the neighborhood—not even from Boston, in most cases. Attracted by spacious, wood-frame houses (in various states of repair) selling at reasonable rates, quiet, tree-lined streets, and easy access to downtown Boston on the T, they were a bit of a phenomenon in our townie part of the world. They weren’t yuppies, exactly; for one thing, they didn’t have enough money to fit the profile, because most of them were politically left and did socially progressive work—printing presses run as collectives, non-profit organizations, social work of various kinds. They had young families and enough of them shortly arrived in a six-block radius to provide my sister and me with a thriving babysitting business.

The only drawback to this arrangement was that our clients, in addition to their esoteric politics, also had purist ideas about food: no chips or cookies, no soft drinks; no refined sugar or fat—in short, no junk food or goodies of any kind. I was used to this, since my mother had the same policy, for totally different, old-school reasons, but when you’re babysitting you expect a few treats to alleviate the tedium. The parents always generously told me to “eat whatever I wanted,” but, despite a thorough scan of the fridge, the pantry, and the cabinets, there was hardly ever anything I recognized, let alone was tempted to eat.

The kitchens were always full of various whole-grain products, and from this came the nickname that we townie twerps used to refer to them collectively—“crunchy granolas”—our shorthand for the latter-day hippies suddenly in our midst. To this day, that’s what I think of whenever I hear the word granola which, to be honest, I had eaten very little of until recently. I had sampled it at various times, but always found it too sweet or too full of bizarre ingredients to compel me to eat it again.

Then, this summer, at my sister-in-law’s wedding weekend in western Massachusetts, I sampled some homemade granola that my sister-in-law’s aunt-in-law had brought along from upstate New York, by request (or was it demand?) of her kids, nieces and nephews. I couldn’t stop eating it, and asked her for the recipe 15 minutes after I ate my first handful (right after I physically separated myself from the bag). She’s been making it for so long that she gave me the recipe off the top of her head, and I’ve already made enough batches of it that I can easily see how that could happen.

Aunt Sue’s Groovy Granola
I was given this recipe with conventional baking instructions (which I’ve included), but I’ve only made this in my slow cooker, because then I don’t have to worry so much about it burning. Also, as you’ll see, I’ve messed with the recipe considerably, and yet strangely, somehow, it’s still just as good as what I originally ate. And easy besides.

3 cups oats
1 cup spelt flour (or whole wheat)*
Couple of pinches salt
1 t cinnamon
½ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds**
¼ cup pumpkin seeds**
⅔ cup sunflower oil***
⅔ cup maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1 t almond extract****

Mix all together and bake at 165C/325F for 35 minutes, or slow cook on low for 3-4 hours.

* I haven’t found any spelt flour yet, so I’ve just been using whatever I have.
** I haven’t gotten around to buying either of these yet, so I’ve been substituting coconut and chopped dried cranberries (adding the latter after cooking).
*** I use light olive oil.
**** I haven’t gotten around to buying this either, so I just add a little more vanilla.

Update, Feb. 15: I've just learned that Aunt Sue was among the 49 people on Flight 3407, which crashed outside Buffalo, NY on Thursday, Feb. 12. My condolences go to her children, siblings, and extended family and friends. I only met her once, but I'm glad I had that opportunity; I'll remember her generosity and vibrancy every time I make this recipe.


thedoglady said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Nancy, thanks for the granola recipe. So sorry to hear about your Aunt Sue. I spend some of my childhood near Clarence and old friends knew folks on that plane as well. Very sad.

Thank you for making her recipe known so that more people will know what a neat lady she was. Thanks again,

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Dee, thanks for your comment. I hope you and your sister enjoy Aunt Sue's granola in good health for a long time to come!

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