"How do I love sweets? Let me count the ways..."
I LOVE apple pie. Seriously, L-O-V-E apple pie. Up until about 10 years ago I couldn't tell you why. All I knew was that getting to dive-in to a piece was heaven on earth as far as I'm concerned. However, it was a conversation with my middle brother that clarified why I love this sweet treat so much. Turns out it was our dad's favorite type of pie (something I never really knew), and a must have at every family dinner. As it turns out, not only did I, over time, develop an attachment to this flavorful treat, but also formed an emotional attachment to it.
I bring this up today for several reasons. First it's "Pi Day". Like many other "geeky" people like myself, the date 3.14 (the numeric representation of the mathematical term "Pi") is marked with "pie". However, I also bring this up because Chick Lit Central's very own Go-To-Gay Wade Rouse is sharing some very special food memories of his own - and a special recipe!
The writings of bestselling humorist Wade Rouse – called “wise, witty and wicked” by USA Today and the lovechild of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris – have been featured multiple times on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E! and People.com. His latest memoir, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (reviewed here) launched in paperback February 1st from Broadway, and he is creator and editor of the humorous dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best from America’s Favorite Humorists (NAL). The book features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, essays by such beloved chick lit authors as Jane Green, and 50 percent of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States. His first memoir, America's Boy, has been re-published by Magnus Books for paperback and Kindle. For more, visit his website, or friend him on Facebook or Twitter.
Growing up in the Ozarks, my Grandma Shipman baked cakes that looked like the ones that graced the covers of Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal.
Frosting, swirled perfectly, the sugary tips seemingly suspended in midair.
My favorite cake she made was a cherry-chip cake with sour cream frosting. It tasted like a creamy, cherry cloud. She also made homemade fruit pies – apple, apple-caramel, blueberry, cherry, peach, rhubarb, strawberry – with intricately laced Crisco crusts, on top of which she would Zorro an “S”, the sign of her work. That was the only moment of pride my grandmother ever demonstrated: That simple “S” the only time she ever said to the world, “Look at me. Look at what I did.”
Her legacy instilled in me a love affair with food as well as a desire to connect with others in a meaningful, creative way. It’s a large part of the reason I write, and a large part of the reason I cook, experiment with recipes, love to spend time in the kitchen.
Ironically, however, I am not a great baker. While I think I can work a grill like Bobby Flay, or create a salad dressing from pure imagination like Giada, I don’t have a lot of Paula Deen in me.
Which is part of the reason I fell in love with Gary.
While the way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, one of the quickest ways to my heart is via my sweet tooth.
Gary realized that from the start.
For one of our very first dates, Gary cooked dinner for me. When I walked into his adorable, little city apartment, I inhaled and was transported back some three decades to my grandmother’s little Ozarks kitchen. His place was enveloped in the scents of, well, sugar and spice and everything nice.
It smelled of home.
I took a bite of his homemade pumpkin bars and melted, more quickly than the cream cheese frosting atop the fluffy cake.
Gary, I came to discover, also learned to love cooking alongside his grandmother as well as his mother.
When someone would initially ask me what drew me to Gary, I would scream, “That boy can bake!” Of course, there was more – much, much more – to my love of Gary than that, but baking always connoted to me that someone took great time and care to demonstrate, quite literally, how sweet they were for you. Baking is a measured endeavor. It requires patience along with creativity. It takes following a recipe and giving it your own twist.
Over time, I realized that Gary had endless dessert recipes. All different. All amazing. Some were passed along from his grandmother, some he had tweaked over time, but many he had created on his own.
I began to call Gary “Grammy G”, a nickname that poked both fun at and also showed affection for his grandmotherly side. Gary not only loves baking and cleaning, he takes great pride in it as well. Nevermind, that Gary looks just like your own grandmother when he dresses up as “Grammy G” for Halloween and special events.
Lately, I have been pushing Gary to write a Paula Deen meets Amy Sedaris meets Dame Edna coffee table book entitled, “Grammy G: Sugar & Spice & Tuck It Twice!,” which would feature his old-fashioned recipes and advice updated for a modern era (from how to fold a fitted sheet to his amazing desserts). I firmly believe America is ready to embrace its old-fashioned sensibilities again.
And wouldn’t it be even more fun if it were done in drag?
As a preface to this, I’m truly honored to share the pumpkin bar recipe that first captured my nose, sweet tooth and heart.
I know Grammy G would make my grandmother – and yours – proud.
|Pumpkin Bars .. Yummm!!!|
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil
1 can 16oz pumpkin
4 eggs beaten
Mix together and add:
2 cups bisquick
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp mace
1 tsp nutmeg
Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan
Bake 350 for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
Cream Cheese Frosting
4 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup butter (softened)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat until creamy
Spread frosting onto bars after they have cooled
Cut into squares