As I look back on the dietary habits of my family growing up I realize my parents went out of their way to make sure we were fed healthy food. I personally witnessed my parents’ dedication to healthy eating as I watched them religiously ingest mountains of brewer’s yeast every morning. My parents never kept sugared cereals like Fruit Loops, Apple Jacks, or Captain Crunch in our house and my mother, God bless her; never put a Hostess product or an Oreo cookie in our lunches.
For lunch, I ate a lot of whole wheat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mixed up sometimes with a not so subtle smelling tuna fish sandwich, and when our family was going through financial rough patches I occassionally got a cheese and mayonnaise sandwich that inevitably would leave a large grease spot on the brown paper bag housing the sandwich and sometimes would stain my backpack. I would have gladly given anything for some American cheese instead of the two thick slabs of sharp cheddar that lay lukewarm on my whole wheat bread.
Our other meals growing up included dishes like cottage cheese pancakes, real oatmeal with real raisins, peanut butter soup, spinach balls, carrot salad with raisins and pineapple, some spaghetti squash, an occasional liver with onions, and a lot of Swiss chard and spinach. Apart from an overabundance of zucchini, it seems like Swiss chard was the only plant my parents successfully grew year after year in their garden. My Mom was a little more generous when it came to desserts and we did eat a lot of homemade chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, but there was one cookie that seemed to be a peculiar favorite of my mom’s: the infamous Applesauce cookie.
First of all, there is a lot of disagreement in my family whether or not the Applesauce cookie was an actual cookie. For the most part it did not look like your average cookie, it was never round or even remotely circular in shape and when you went to grab one from the cookie jar more often than not you would come out with a glob of what possibly looked like 3 or 4 cookies stuck together. Plus unlike other cookies which are inviting, the Applesauce cookie was menacing and intimidating. Day after day, week after week, this brownish gray mass of mystery ingredients that refused to get moldy would stare out daring us to try a glob.
Not only did their shape and look put the label “cookie” in doubt, but it was the sheer density of the Applesauce cookie that casts doubt as well. Legend has it that my older brother successfully lifted one out unassisted when he was 10 year old, but no one else has been able to confirm that. I was 12 years old before I could lift the cookies out of cookie jar without help from other family members or good-hearted neighbors. Because of their density our parents would often warn us in a special sit down talk with worn out graphic posters to not throw Applesauce cookies at each other, especially to not throw them at each other’s head, and to never ever throw a cookie in anger. But that wasn’t the worst part about the cookie’s density; the worst part was after you ate the cookie. Our parents often would tell us that the heavy, “cement-like” feeling in our stomachs would go away after 36 hours, but it often felt like two or three weeks before it passed.
There are many things I owe a lot of thanks to my parents for and in hindsight I do appreciate their efforts to have us eat healthy and many of those habits did carry over (okay, maybe just some of them carried over, many is a bit of an exaggeration). But, it has been years now since I have had an Applesauce cookie nor I have ever asked for the recipe or ever wanted to know what went into those cookies. And I find it no accident, as an adult, that I have never seen an Applesauce cookie mass marketed in any local bakery or grocery chain.