Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Iced Oatmeal Cookies: Back for Seconds

oatmeal cookie 2

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.

king entry 2

Entrance to King’s interior courtyard: a secret garden
But 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.

King Snack Bar Site 2

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.

king Golden Gate
Yep, that’s the Golden Gate Bridge I should have admired every morning
But 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!)


Thérèse said...

Wow, I sure don't remember milkshakes or buttered French bread. Sweets from the Black Muslim Bakery, yes. And It's-its, but not at school - love them, should make some with better cookies & ice cream.

Charles Shere said...

When I went to school there, 1947-1949, the cafeteria served little other than boiled beets. Some of the boys put pieces of them in their glasses of milk. Disgusting.

lshere said...

I have to make some. And I can't believe a cafeteria with milkshakes-sounds like wishful thinking.

Joanna said...

I now have no choice but to craft my own Its Its - with homemade ice cream, if I really mean business.

Reading your description of the 15 minute morning snack break (they called it "nutrition break" where I lived) and never stepping foot in the cafeteria, I feel like we went to the same jr. high school. Except mine was in Eugene - and the view from our gym (into the Amazon Slough) was far less grand.

Giovanna said...

Probably the milkshakes were like those 'malteds' you used to get at the ballgame. That is, not really milkshakes. Or they were runny soft ice cream? Or maybe just figments of my friends' memories. Though it's suspicious that a few people remember them....

Thérèse, were the Black Muslim Bakery sweets at school? I only remember the door-to-door sweet potato pies.

Boiled beets? In their milk? Did they drink it then?

And Joanna, I love the idea of a nutrition break on the Amazon Slough. I might have to go to Eugene just to partake.

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