When Mom died back in March something withered in me too. For the first time since my culinary curiosity sparked in 1978, I lost interest in food, in cooking, in writing—blogging too. I still enjoyed the table, sharing a good meal with family and friends, but I took no pleasure in dreaming up a dish, shopping for it, cooking it—and certainly not writing about it.
I can’t completely blame Mom’s death for my dramatic change. Our family has experienced many of life’s big events this year. Dashiell Collins Keet’s big splash into our world (literally into a birthing pool!) on January 16th impacted this family more than we could have ever imagined. Before Dashiell was born, Maggy and I would talk about my role in his life. “I want to be his grandmother, not his nanny,” I insisted. Yet as I watched Maggy struggle with returning to work, not wanting to leave her son, it didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted to be Dashiell’s full-time GoGo.
With Maggy, Andy, and Dashiell living with us on Maggy’s maternity leave, David’s and my winter and spring were rich and full. But just as they were moving back to New York, we got word that Sharon had landed a job as the development director at WhyHunger in New York City. Not only would Sharon, Anthony and our little grand French bulldog Eloise be moving back to the area, but into our home as they settled in and figured out where they want to live. Clearly, this is a season for family.
Last Saturday while Anthony & Sharon and Maggy & Andy made dinner for us all, David and I took Dashiell and Eloise on a walk. It wasn’t long before Dashiell tired of the stroller and Eloise went on a walking strike. As the four of us traipsed back home—Dashiell in my arms and David pushing Eloise in the stroller—I realized that this was good enough. It need not get any better.
Maybe it’s not that I’ve lost interest in food as much as my priorities have further pivoted. Family has always been important, but never so much as now. The family says I’ve changed. Maybe. All I know is that food and drink mostly serve one purpose: to bring my family together.
Maggy, Sharon, and I have enjoyed our little blogging sabbatical. We’ve rediscovered what we love about food blogging, so going forward there will be no more posting just to produce regular content. If we’ve got something worth sharing we’ll let you know. You may hear from us less frequently, but we will do it more joyfully.
Peanut Butter and Jam Bars perfectly exemplifies the kind of recipe we want to share. With our annual Anderson family reunion getting close, we wanted to create something to share as we gather around the table and trade tales of all that’s happened since we last got together. In that family spirit, we offer it to you.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon each: salt and baking soda
- ½ cup coconut oil or butter
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1¼ cups natural peanut butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups jam, your choice (we used cherry)
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a greased 13- by 9-inch baking pan with a 13- by 18-inch sheet of parchment to facilitate removal of baked bars. Grease and flour parchment and set aside.
- Mix flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat coconut oil and sugar until smooth; beat in egg, then peanut butter, and finally the vanilla extract until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low, add flour mixture, and beat until fully incorporated.
- Press ⅔ of the peanut butter dough into the prepared pan; spread jam over the dough to cover. Mix peanuts into remaining peanut butter dough, crumbling it over the jam to form a topping
- Bake until jam is bubbly and crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand until set, about 5 minutes. Using parchment handles, remove bars from pan and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into squares and serve. (Can be stored in an airtight container about a week.)