It’s funny to me how certain trends catch on like wildfire in school
s. I see it in the stories Henry brings home from his school, where he learns what’s cool by watching the other kids. So far, his lessons in assimilation have been innocuous – there’s been some days where he’s slipped on some new behaviors like a borrowed shirt, only to toss it aside when he feels it doesn’t fit on his body. He grew his hair long this year, insisting he enjoyed the feeling of it in his eyes, only to chop it off at the start of summer. He’s become a rabid soccer fan, famous among his friends for his ability to score goals on second-graders. While I hope that the process of adjusting and comparing himself to his peers remains as sweet in his progressive school where inclusion is an articulated part of its ethos, I know it will get harder.
Cookies the size of pizzas were one of the social currencies of my high school; in fact, so were pizza parties, though that seems to endure. I loved cake and made them regularly at home but begged for a giant cookie bought at the mall because that’s what I was supposed to do. Homemade cake was embarrassing to teenage girls, these complicated humans I was trying to be friends with and occasionally looked in the mirror and saw reflected back at me. Maybe homemade cake was embarrassing because it was messy and imperfect, I don’t know. All I knew was that having the right cake at my birthday felt like one way I could reduce the otherness I felt inside me, since it was my personal hobby to pull at the threads of my hand-knitted self confidence and unravel it when no one was watching.
I look back now and wish I had shown the kind of bravery I’ve always had in me, the kind I wear outside my skin now. I wore so much makeup, dyed my hair so blonde, hated my body for not looking right in a bikini like my other friends who skipped school to lay on the beach, let myself feel unintelligent or unworthy or unloved so often with no connection to the curious, beautiful, strong young woman I was then. I didn’t introduce myself with my thoughts, my writing, my love like I do today.
It all changed when I went to Paris, really. In Paris, I felt unimportant in the right ways—swallowed by a big city, like I had so much to learn from what was around me because what was around me was so worth learning about and assimilating to. I made friends over intellectual conversations, over what I was reading and writing, friends whose cultures and stories were so much more interesting, far braver, than my own. I met the love of my life there, this young liberal American guy who I coaxed into a new wardrobe as he coaxed me into independent thinking. I saw food as if for the first time there, not just diving back into “homemade” as was my high school secret, but soaking up new traditions, learning about generations of cooks and how their country’s historical and cultural background of food defined popular culture and the personal identities of my young Parisian friends.
In Paris, I was given so many languages to speak, and so found my voice.
With distance, experience, and the intense personal growth that maturity brings, I often wish I could somehow hold the younger version of myself, mother her somehow like I do my own kids, and tell her she’s exactly where she needs to be. I do that by devoting my days to making homemade cake, writing and reading things that inspire and challenge me, making friends by turning myself inside out first, being a good mother to my sons.
And making this giant cookie sundae, as if winking to the younger version of myself and saying, “try this.”
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie Sundae
Serves 8 to 10
Buckwheat is in a Paleo grey area, but is definitely gluten-free. It’s full of vitamins and nutrition, however, and lends an extra nutty bite to this cookie, so it’s definitely on my menu. In lieu of the whipped coconut cream in this recipe, try it topped with ice cream. I love the plant-based ice creams made by Seattle’s very own Frankie and Jo’s; their “Date Shake” flavor is one free of refined sugar, eggs and dairy and tastes delicious on this cookie.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
1 cup unsweetened peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter
1 cup coconut sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
1/4 cup water
Mama’s Hot Fudge Sauce and vegan ice cream, for serving (optional)
1 / Preheat oven to 350 °F. In a small bowl, mix together buckwheat, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together nut butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Add flour mixture until a crumbly dough forms; add water and continue to beat until mixed. (Dough should be the texture of wet sand.)
2 / Press dough into a 8 to 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Bake until puffed and just slightly golden on top but soft when pressed gently, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3 / Make coconut whipped cream: Beat cold 1/2 cup coconut cream and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon whipped coconut cream over warm cookie. In a small bowl, whisk to combine remaining 1/2 cup coconut cream, cocoa powder (or carob) and maple syrup. Cookie is intended to be eaten directly from the skillet, shared at the center of the table.
This post was originally published in July 2019, right here on this blog. It’s a favorite, so I thought I would post it again! Thank you for being here and continuing to read while I work on new projects. To hear about them, sign up for my monthly newsletter here. I’ll be honored to keep you posted!