Thursday, January 19, 2012
When I was growing up the wall next to our staircase was covered in framed family photos. Not unlike anyone else’s stairway I would presume. One photo in particular was the only professionally posed photo that my family had ever sat down for. It was taken, after hours, in the Cole School gymnasium on a week night in the middle of the winter.
It is your standard family photo, my sister and I perched on blocks, my mother, father and brother artfully arranged at varying heights over our heads. Some of us are smiling; some of us are making a European- style serious face. The only thing different about this photo is the twenty-something man seated next to my mother, holding her hand. His name is Brian and he was a former student of my dad’s and he was, at the time of the photo, living in a U-Haul in our driveway and at times crashing on our couch. My parents, never lacking for sense of humor, thought it would be completely hilarious to have Brian not only come to our family photo shoot but have him tenderly hold my mom’s hand. Like him and my dad were some kind of brother husbands or he was our eldest half brother. I can’t remember what life circumstances brought him to our cat-hair covered couch; and, having grown up in a house with an open door policy when it came to guests, didn’t think much of it at the time. I was six years old, I had a cat named Ashley, I enjoyed the literary works of the Berenstain Bears and a dude named Brian lived in my driveway. It was the way it was. I didn’t know normal looked anything different from this. I was after all in the same household where a guy nicknamed Space dug an eleven foot hole in the woods next to our driveway in an attempt to make an off the grid underground-shelter-cum-paintball-lair. I should mention he did this not only with my dad’s consent, but assistance and outright enthusiasm.
Years later when I was in high school my friend Becky was over looking at the family photo wall and she was all “Jess did you guys have a foreign exchange student? Who is this dude holding your mom’s hand?” I started to explain that he was just a friend of my dad’s who lived in our driveway for a while. As I explained the history of how Brian made it into our family photograph I realized the image itself was like a metaphor for my entire childhood.
So here I was again today thinking about metaphors as I prepared this Coconut Almond butter in my decidedly jury-rigged Cuisinart. About how the way we do things often illustrates our approach to the world at large. In order to trick the safety switch on the top of my food processor into thinking the cover is on the column, I wedge a kitchen knife into it and then cover the opening at the top with a dish towel to keep whatever I’m pulsing from spritzing out all over my face. Today, because I need to run the processor for upwards of ten minutes, I have scotch taped a barbecue skewer in place to hold the switch. It looks awkward and little ridiculous, but it works for me.
Sure, I could easily go online and order the twenty dollar part that would make all of this rigging unnecessary and ultimately, make my life a little bit easier. Just like my parents could have had a “no dudes living in our driveway” policy while their kids were growing up. Yeah, it might have been slightly more stable and traditional. Smarter even. But where’s the fun in that?
COCONUT ALMOND BUTTER
Sweetened, flaked coconut (or unsweetened if you can find it)
Here I used equal parts almonds and coconut. You can measure it out if you need to. If I had to guess, it was probably about two cups of each, which yielded me one small and one large Ball jar of finished Coconut Almond Butter.
Heat oven to 325. Spread almonds in one layer on a baking sheet. Line another cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread a thin layer of coconut flakes. Send both pans to the oven, stirring occasionally until toasted (about 10 minutes in my oven). Parts of the coconut will be golden brown and the nuts will be fragrant.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Add coconut to the bowl of a food processor and process for quite a while until the flakes are pulverized. You can continue to pulse until the coconut becomes soupy, liquid coconut butter, but since I was adding the almonds, I didn’t think it was necessary. Add the almonds and process until it starts looking like a slightly thicker, more textured version of natural peanut butter. Add a dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey and process a bit more. When it has reached a spreadable consistency, scoop into jars, label and date.
Perfect for whole grain toast topped with sliced banana. Or stirred into oatmeal. Or in a breakfast smoothie. Or right off the spoon.