Iced Oatmeal Cookies from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
Back for Seconds: Deja mangé?I was minding my own business, eating an oatmeal cookie (more on that later), when I was struck by a powerful deja vu. Deja mangé?
Back in the mid-1970s I was a junior high student in Berkeley, California at what was then called Martin Luther King Junior Junior High School. We just called it King. Today it's called King Middle School, and is somewhat famous in the world of food. King was the school that Alice Waters famously challenged to fix their food program. King was the school that famously fixed their food program, with The Edible Schoolyard.
I went there for two years, but don't remember once stepping foot in the (now) famous cafeteria (actually, they moved the cafeteria to another building nearly 10 years ago). Instead, my friends and I brown-bagged it on the benches surrounding the interior courtyard (which was not quite as lovely then as now) of the Mediterranean style school.
Entrance to King’s interior courtyard: a secret gardenBut our snack break (yes, we had an actual 15 minute break in the morning, for getting a snack) was passed generally by the freestanding snack bar (now gone) out back.
Friends from those days tell me we could get milkshakes there, and strips of French bread dripping with butter, or, as one friend remembers it, butter-like substance. But all I remember were the plate-sized oatmeal cookies, gently spiced and warm from the oven (yes, I think they actually baked them on-site). The cookies came in a waxed paper bag, and on days I felt flush I would buy one and eat it on the sloped concrete snack area.
I was back in Berkeley a couple of weeks ago for my high school reunion. It was the perfect ‘Back for Seconds’ weekend—lots of familiar faces and buildings, gently aged, but still comfortingly recognizable.
A quick trip to King seemed like a good idea. The school’s gardens have filled in an area that I remember as being depressing, and nearly barren. When I was there, the gym was across the concrete grounds from the school. On the day I visited I was shocked by the view that I didn't remember ever noticing, much less appreciating. If I had turned my head just a little to the left on my way to P.E. class, I could have gazed at a view of the Golden Gate Bridge that tourists stop and set up tripods over. I didn't even remember it.
Yep, that’s the Golden Gate Bridge I should have admired every morningBut the cookie? I remember that. And earlier this summer, I tasted it again when I baked Kim Boyce's iced oatmeal cookies from her book, Good to the Grain. They remind Boyce of Mother's brand oatmeal cookies. I was more of an iced-raisin cookie girl, so that taste didn’t come back to me. But I know what she means--there's something familiar about the nutmeg and cinnamon scented cookies, though these are made with oats and a mix of all-purpose, whole wheat, rye, oat, and millet flours, and glazed with a cinnamon icing.
They also remind me of the cookies used to make It's Its, the ice cream sandwich that originated at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco, as well as the oatmeal cookies drugstores used to keep in those glass cookie jars that always sat next to the cash register.
But what they most reminded me of were my snack break cookies at King. Maybe it’s the familiar spices. Perhaps the nubby crunch. But probably it was just the treat of an unusually large (in my house anyway) cookie in the middle of the morning. I did turn my head a little to the left, but there was no Golden Gate out the window. Just the neighbor's photinia, due to be ripped out later this week.
Iced Oatmeal Cookie recipe, adapted from Good to the Grain by Tasting Table
My Culinate review of Good to the Grain
More on Playland at the Beach:
Playland articles, with links to interviews and home movies
Article about documentary, ‘Remembering Playland at the Beach’
Trailer for ‘Remembering Playland at the Beach’ (that slide was so much fun!)