I was raised by a single mom. She married my kind, adventurous and frequently infuriating step father when I was nine, but, by then a complicated child rearing system was well in place. The system involved grandparents, the expectation that I would be able to entertain myself, and a network of other single mothers who worked as a unit raise me and my pack of semi-wild girlfriends. In truth, the network also included mothers who had husbands, but who were totally outnumbered by their children and also parents who both had to work, a lot, to make ends meet. This wide “family” network afforded me exposure to entire worlds that might have otherwise evaded me.
The mother of my earliest childhood friend worked every summer at the PNE in Vancouver, a mamouth fair with rides and junkfood, which is the epitome of everything that my own mother cannot stomach. Also, this mother always bought her daughter the latest pop music, which she, being three years older than me, then passed on to me. I would have been a much dorkier person without their influence.
The mother of a later best friend read us every classic of children’s literature in a beautiful British accent, which is still the standard by which all voices are judged as far as I’m concerned. Just the other night I watched Diana Rigg playing a very clever sleuth in a PBS tv show and thought,”She has a beautiful voice…almost as beautiful as Pippa’s!” To be fair, my mother is also very good at reading stories aloud, but she is not British and has never been a smoker so…there you go.
My mother use to have another close friend who looked after me on many weekends after we moved to Hawaii. She lived in as a caretaker on a string of impossibly glamourous tropical estates. My favourite of these estates could only be reached by hiking on foot for a few miles into a lush rainforest valley (or by helicopter, I suppose). In places such as these, my mother’s friend grew all manner of heavenly produce and cooked gourmet meals on a regular basis. A typical breakfast at her house was fresh homegrown papaya and croissants smeared with cream cheese and smoked salmon. She could also decorate any living space in a day flat, so that it was a shrine to her creativity and the magic of aesthetics. My mother, in contrast, favoured healthy rather than decadent food and did not hold onto bric brac, which was hard to move and keep clean.
I was raised in a particularly innocent time, full of risk taking and re-imagining of the family unit. I wish that I could say that the manner in which I was raised was totally idealic, but I cannot. Most of us who were raised in the grand experimental style of the 1970’s have our complaints. People are complicated, and the more of them who have a hand in your upbringing the more complicated your childhood becomes. That is just the truth. I imagine that the parents who are raising their children communally today have more of an awareness of that truth. It is good to encounter and embrace complexity in life, but it does take some work!
These cookies were inspired by an ex-friend of my mother’s. This friend was, and probably still is, a complicated person. So complicated in fact that am very, very happy that she is not a part of my extended family anymore. She did, however, make amazing , complicated cookies. They consisted almost entirely of oats, chocolate (or often carob) chips, pepitas, almond, coconut and raisins, and had almost no flour holding them together. She used almond extract in them and I loved the way they smelled. She and my mother made thousands of these cookies for a coffee house that they ran together for years. While the adults played music and talked about adult things like boat building, political and social systems and how to make wine out of blackberries in your bathtub, the children were largely unattended and sneaking dozens of these cookies into their pockets.
I have been craving these cookies since an incident at rehearsal a few weeks ago. Someone had brought in trail mix for the cast to snack on and I set about picking out all of the chocolate and pepitas, like a person who had been raised by wolves…or maybe squirels. I found myself wishing that the mix had coconut and almonds too…and maybe some oats and almond flavoured dough…
I based my recipe off of Aran Goyoga’s Everything cookies in Sweet Treats and Small Plates, which is a cookbook that I highly recommend. These cookies have more dough, are gluten-free (wheat flour is way too complicated for my tummy) and contain no raisins (my husband embraces complexity, but he draws a line at raisins in cookies). Feel free to swap out the nuts or add dried fruit so that you have exactly the complicated mix of tasty morsels you would pick out of a batch of trail mix (if you lacked manners) in your cookie recipe.
adapted from Sweet Treats and Small Plates by Aran Goyoga
- 8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick), softened
- 1/2 cup demerara sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (muscavado if you ‘ve got it!)
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/3 cup starch (this could be tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt (I highly recommend a flakey salt like maldone)
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup chopped almonds
- 1/3 cup pepitas
- 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
- Cream the butter and sugar together.
- Add the almond extract and egg and mix until combined.
- Sift in the brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix it until the dough comes together.
- Stir in the oats, coconut, chopped almonds, pepita and chocolate chips.
- Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Use the parchment paper to roll the dough into a log 16 inches long. Refrigerate the log of dough, wrapped in parchment paper for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the log into 32, 1/2 inch disks. Spread the disks out on parchment paper lined cookie trays ,with 2 inches in between each cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
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