Something strange started to happen along my mother-baker way.
I began cutting crusts off things.
And I love crust.
Crunchy, chewy, hearty, crust.
There’s nothing quite like it.
But then I had children.
(Ahhh, it’s always the children…)
And crusts started coming off.
No one was safe.
It was the Reign of Terror all over again, only, instead of heads, it was crusts.
Perfectly good sandwiches, really, better off with the crust, were decapitated, sneakily and with sharp knives. No questions asked.
Battling the undisputed precision of Zorro.
One minute whole, proud units of flavor, the next, an emaciated, emasculated memento of its former self.
From there the cruelty continued and I moved on to baked goods.
Cute toddlers have a way of wrapping themselves around my heart and making me forget reason, a feature most potent when said toddlers are mine. Those grubby faces and clover honey eyes, (goodness my, those eyelashes!) practically forced me to do it when they stared up at me and pleaded,
“Mommy, the one without the crust,” signaling with a dirty finger the cube of brownie smack in the center of the pan.
And so I complied.
What else does a mother do?
And carved that one piece for the child.
Dug it out like an Aztec priest would dig out the beating heart of their bravest warriors giving themselves to their sun god atop the Great Pyramid of Tenochitlán.
Sloppy like that.
People would cheer when that beating heart emerged into the sunlight in all its glory.
In my house, two children cried out in glee when the crustless gooey brownie finally came out.
“Yes, Mommy! Yes! Me too! Me too! I want that one!” The other grubby toddler now pointed to the partner brownie next to the vacant space.
You know how it is with revolutions.
It only takes one, then all the others follow.
So I spent years carving out the guts of my delicious concoctions.
Grandma’s Famous Fudge Brownies.
Jane’s Lemon Bites.
Mississippi Mud Bars.
You name it. They were all destroyed In The Name Of Clover Honey Eyes.
Until one day my husband stumbled upon the massacre I left behind.
This husband of mine is brilliant, you see, you must understand this to understand fully what happened next.
He catches every detail of life.
If the paint has chipped on the upper right hand corner of the far wall in your office, a room he rarely enters and you spend your entire life in, he will catch that.
If the woman three seats down in the doctor’s waiting room, the one coughing incessantly into the plastic plant to her left, was your former boss’s sister you both met once twenty years ago at a fundraiser, he will remind you.
And yes, if the butcher’s wife isn’t the killer, even though the movie has set you up to swear, to believe, to know it is her, but you’ve failed to pick up on the slight twitch in her left forefinger, a clue fundamental in realizing she was not able to proceed with the crime, why, yes, Husband caught the twitch the second it first happened and promptly let you know four minutes into the whole thing: she didn’t do it.
Talk about a spoiler alert.
If you deduct a trace of annoyance in me, why, I’d be obliged to call you perceptive. But rest assured, my irritation is rooted in jealousy, nothing more, nothing less.
My office ceiling can be falling on my head and I would not notice.
My former boss’s sister could have donated 20 million dollars to my personal cause and I still would not remember her.
And the killer? I would have been stunned to learn it wasn’t the wife even after the big twist was revealed and the credits were done rolling.
For the most part, I consider myself fortunate to be paired with such a hyper-aware partner. It’s good to have someone remind you to look up and notice how awesome the cloud formations are or that your accountant has begun parting his hair on the right side. And then, of course, there are the times when such hyper-awareness works in my favor.
At the destruction of my Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Brownies.
Nothing was left on the battlefield but crusts.
All the plump crustless bodies were packed away in a Tupperware safely for the children.
Who were no longer toddlers, I may add, but rather gangly teenagers trapped in that odd vortex between child and adult.
Hopelessly addicted to their crustless goodies.
Husband sees the baking pan.
A pan whose scraps I am about to discard.
“Why, this is wonderful! You’ve left me all the crusts!”
And there was joy and a bit more twinkling in his eye fueled by That Feeling of Love.
You know the look when Guy and Gal first hook up and every action is coated in that adoring stare?
I was being stared this way now. A stare that celebrated me. Utterly and completely loved me.
Of course! Husband swore I had cut out the crusts just for him!
He grabbed a long piece of cut-up crust and took a hearty bite.
“Hmmmm, perfect,” he munched loudly.
And after that, he took what was left and dipped it in his coffee.
“Just like that,” he continued.
The piece was thin and long and crunchy with chunks of chocolate warming to a melt and the scent of spicy cinnamon filling the air as it gave way luxuriously to the steamy Arabica blend.
“Great idea,” he concluded after wolfing down two crust pieces. “Make sure to separate the crusts every time!” He added, contently taking the last sip of his, now sweetened, mocha.
I could take this moment to clarify to him. To explain the History of The Crusts. How I didn’t mean to do it, it all started with an innocent grilled cheese sandwich years ago and now I just can’t stop. How, unlike the butcher’s wife, I don’t have a twitch on my left forefinger. But, I choose not to. Adoration is intoxicating and I don’t want to spoil that. Instead, I offer a sweet smile and make a mental note. Sometimes things are better left unsaid.
- 1 cup sugar
- ¾ cup butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 oz. chocolate chips *the better the chocolate, the better the brownie! Splurge!
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Beat sugar with butter until light and fluffy. You can never do this long enough, so, best to put it in your stand mixer and pop in that old Jane Fonda Aerobics VHS you have hidden behind Your Life.
- Beat in eggs, one at a time.
- Add vanilla.
- Sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, or be lazy like me, plop it in a bowl and stir it around with a whisk. Same thing, I promise. Same enough, at least.
- Stir into the batter.
- Stir in chocolate chips (remember, you are denying yourself the imported fancy fruit from Spain in order to afford fancy chocolate chips. I know reaching for the old standards feels safe, but, trust me, try something exotic and dark.
- Stir in nuts.
- Place in greased 13x9 pan. Spread more chocolate chips on top.
- Bake 25-30 minutes.
- Cool in pan.
- Cut the crazy way: a long slice alongside the border of the pan (about ½ inch thick for the best crust pieces). Save these strips for coffee and great husbands. The inside will now be crustless, ready for spoiled children.