By Katherine Bielawa Stamper
It appears we have a treat deficit at my house. On a recent run to the grocery store, my daughter proclaimed: “Mom, we need treats. Can we buy some treats?”
“We have treats,” I pointed out, recounting the presence of homemade banana bread on our kitchen counter. Sadly, this didn’t count. My daughter was angling for something sweeter and a bit more processed.
Baking from scratch is a frequent occurrence at the Stamper Homestead. Aromas from muffins studded with blueberries and chocolate chips, my husband’s specialty, or not-too-sweet Scottish scones waft through our kitchen on weekend mornings. Chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies make special appearances, their nutritional credentials bolstered by whole-grain flours. Wheat, corn, buckwheat, rice and plain old white flours stake out places in our pantry amid nuts, sugar, honey and leavening agents.
“I want something sweet, out of a box,” my teen protested.
Sigh. Home baking was being edged out by Oreos and Nutter Butters. I was reminded of my daughter’s long-ago playmate who refused to eat homemade cookies. I sometime baked while the girls played dress-up or climbed trees in the backyard. If a sweet treat came out of a box and was wrapped in plastic, our guest was all over it. If it came fresh out of the oven, she declined, saying, “I don’t eat those.”
Cynicism tinged with humor bubbled up, evoking a quiet laugh amid the grocery aisles. I guess basic butter, eggs, flour, nuts, fruits and spices can’t compete with the immediate gratification of heavily sweetened and salted snacks.
My husband and I share the cooking at home. He’s the pizza, lasagna and anything-with-yeast guy. Soups and stews—minestrone, borscht, spinach, curried peanut—are my specialty. We’re vegetarians. Entrees are often rice or pasta dishes rounded out with beans, vegetables and cheeses.
As a working parent who happens to enjoy the culinary arts, I take pride in preparing home cooked meals and baked goods from scratch. Each week, I plan a menu which, this time of year, includes stick-to-your-rib dishes to fortify my family against winter’s cold.
I’ve become skilled at cooking early on Saturday mornings to prepare two or three homemade meals. These can easily be heated or tossed in the oven for “finishing” when my family convenes after a day at the office or in school. It’s satisfying to eat what I call “real food” (i.e., not out of a box) by candlelight on a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday night. We ignore the telephone and tune out the rest of the world, focusing on family. This time is very precious as school, work and extracurricular activities demand much of us. The hour we eat may vary; the constant is that we are together, breaking bread and checking in on our days.
Martha Stewart was incarcerated for participating in an insider trader scheme. She’s also a bit of a food guru. I aim for a little gastronomic panache without the legal problems Martha encountered. Some of our meals STILL end up being gosh-darn boring. Occasionally, my cooking excursions turn into absolute flops. Sometimes we’re too tired to really taste the food. For these reasons, you can always find a Vermont Flatbread pizza in my freezer, just in case. It’s parked right next to the ice cream. And sometimes, I give in to my daughter for that blue package of Oreos.