Every morning she'd cut up a green (always green, not red) apple into small slices. The apple would inevitably go brown half-way through the workday. She would fry or hardboil two eggs. And she'd lightly (never darkly) toast two slices of rye bread (white or whole wheat never darkened the door of our house) and cut that into slices as well. That was her lunch/breakfast she'd nibble through the day at work. Hence the cutting into small slices. She put her food in plastic bags, which outraged my proto-environmentalist self, but I think the idea of spending money on food containers that might make the food more appetizing was an abomination to her. She'd eat dinner when she came home from work--usually early, around 3 or 4pm, which was often cheap beef microwaved until it turned a sickly grey color. Or chicken and boiled vegetables in a pot. When I once tried to make her 'chicken soup' and had the temerity to suggest some spices, she inevitably responded: "I LIKE MY FOOD PLAIN."
The thing is, my mother did have tastebuds. When we went out to eat, she spurned filet mignon, and ordered prime rib--meat served on the bone, medium rare--just barely brown at the edges, mostly bloody. Sometimes as a kid she would melt a plate of kasseri cheese on a baking sheet when my father was away, and we'd dip bits of French bread or Pillsbury tube dough croissants into the oily pool of dairy deliciousness. She made a fabulous meatloaf, confirming my belief that the most indifferent cooks make the best meatloaf: ketchup, Italian breadcrumbs, a generous lashing of Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, raw egg, and onion soup mix. No food snob prizes there, but on hoagie rolls with ketchup, damn that stuff was good. Or she'd use the same blend, form it into meatballs and top it with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese....
At some point my mother decided that tasty food was dangerous, and food was medicine alone. I rebelled, coming home to the house, absent of sweets, and take the cinnamon raisin loaf, peanut butter, butter and marmalade from the refrigerator and build myself sandwiches far more decadent than the Hostess cupcakes I longed for...I began microwaving my own meals, usually Weight Watchers TV dinners that left me unsatisfied and lead to more cravings.
Occasionally my mother's system would break down--she'd order pizza, eat peanut butter from the jar. Sometimes she'd have Special K or Shredded Wheat for breakfast and chase it with some of my Frosted Flakes. But not very often.
Excess and austerity must be balanced in a kind of a yin-yang. Of course, there are wonderful excessive desserts, like the great Dorie Greenspan's Thanksgiving Twofer pie, combining pumpkin pie and pecan pie in an unholy blend of deliciousness.
My Threefer cookies try to 'up' Dorie's ante one better by combining pumpkin pie, pecan pie, AND apple crumble pie into one. And believe it or not they are vegan and pretty healthy.
Note: For non-vegans (like myself) you can also 'substitute' an egg for the flaxseed. However, since I was making this for friends, some of whom are vegan, I decided to use the egg alternative.
Threefor Pumpkin Apple Pecan Cookie recipe (Vegan)
Makes approximately 24 large cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or your homemade blend)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons flaxseed plus 6 tablespoons water (or 1 egg, for a non-vegan cookie)
1/2 cup of oil
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts if you don't desire the pecan pie effect)
1 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup golden raisins
Cinnamon sugar for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment (this batter is sticky, so the parchment is a necessity)
2. Sift the flours, baking soda and powder, spices, salt, and sugar.
3. Make the 'egg' by mixing the flaxseed and water.
4. Blend the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla. Add the flaxseed-water mixture.
5. Fold in the dry, sifted mixture into the wet. Incorporate the pecans, apples, and raisins.
6. The batter will be sticky. Spoon in tablespoon-sized lumps onto the baking sheets. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 15-16 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on the sheets. To firm up the cookie (if desired for packing it in a school lunch), once the cookie is at room temperature, chill in the refrigerator overnight.