Another favorite was the no-bake chocolate-peanut butter cookie. And after-school peanut-butter, banana and mayonnaise (or marshmallow fluff) sandwiches. Celery? Sure, if it's filled with peanut butter.
It was no accident that all our favorite treats included peanut butter. Both of us kids were allergic to peanuts; not the sort of catastrophic emergency room allergic that sends parents and day care providers into panics these days, but a runny-nose nuisance sort of allergy. So of course we dove into the Peter Pan jar at every opportunity.
Tell anyone not to eat something, and they instantly crave it. That's why diets don't work and junk food abounds. Add a tinge of naughtiness to rich, sweet and salty, and we'll climb over each other to get at it.
When a doctor I deeply respect warned me away from all "white" foods, I went into shock. No more white bread, white rice, white sugar, white potatoes or anything containing white flour. Also, no partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fats,) no high fructose corn syrup, and no ingredients my grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
I'm not about to be an ascetic, subsisting on a "healthful" regime of steamed vegetables and brown rice. So I've learned to adapt.
> Raw cane and beet sugar, both coarse and fine, substitute quite nicely for the highly processed white stuff. Honey can be used in some recipes, but requires some careful adjustment.
> Whole wheat flour changes the texture of baked goods and imparts a subtle bitterness. Oat flour has a much sweeter, nutty flavor, but results in heavy breads. A good option is Spelt flour, and I have decided that whole grain bread made with a portion of unbleached white bread flour is an honorable compromise.
> Olive Oil and Butter are good gifts of a great and loving God. For non-vegetarians who cannot digest dairy products, rendered animal fat, i.e., Lard, is a fine thing and far more healthful than the partially-hydrogenated stuff that comes in big blue or yellow cans.
> Brown rice and whole-grain pastas both come in many varieties and have more body and flavor than their pale counterparts.
> Anything you can do with white potatoes I can do better with sweets.
It's gotta taste good, or I'm not eating it. I'm willing to do the research and experimentation, and I'm willing to throw out any results that don't make my husband ask for more. That's what cooking joyfully and thoughtfully is all about.
copyright Starr Luteri 2009