When I was a preteen back in the mid 60s, a slumber party was a sign of popularity and prestige. The first one my mother let me attend was during the summer of my tenth year: Judy Matrangalo, a very popular girl in my class at school who lived around the block from me, was turning 10. I remember very few particulars except that we went to see the film Born Free, and that a box of Kleenex was passed up and down the movie aisle as the row of us young girls dried our sniffles afterwards, and that even through tears I was breathless with joy at being one of the chosen to attend. In October of that year, my “older” buddy, Gail, just a few houses down from me, turned 12. I remember feeling honored to be with all these seventh graders. We danced to “I’m a Believer” in the small living room with the furniture pushed back, and then spent the night out in the back yard in a large tent with flashlights. I listened in awe as the seventh grade girls discussed who had bras and how you could tell, and whether there was Kleenex stuffed into the cups or not.
So naturally when I turned 11 the next January, it was my turn to host. Having my birthday fall in Winter had some rather sore sticking points. Earlier on, it was that I could not have a birthday at Fairy Tale Town, a place in our city park that boasted a castle with a moat where the birthday boy or girl would be crowned king or queen and allowed to sit on a throne to open presents. It was closed for the month of January. As if that were not disappointment enough as a member of the “under 8” crowd, when I got a little older I learned that I could not request a legendary ice cream cake from Vic’s Ice Cream, because they, too, closed for the month of January. How in the world was I to celebrate in true style if these accompaniments were denied me?
So hosting a slumber party was a source of great comfort. I remember there were lots of giggling girls of all colors and sizes, that we slept in the living room and had a fire in the fireplace, and that my Dad got cranky at us for giggling on into the very late night. But in the morning his crankiness was gone. He was “up and at ‘em,” as he would have said, with my Mom, making us a sit-down feast of a breakfast. There were pancakes with maple or berry syrup, and, in those days, of course, bacon. But the thing I remember most clearly was the fresh pineapple. Somewhere my Dad had procured a whole, fresh pineapple. He stood at the head of the dining room table, all smiles, with a very sharp knife, and proceeded to skin and then cut the pineapple up for us. Chunks and slices were laid on a fancy glass plate and passed around the table. As I write this, I can once again taste the strong sweet goodness. It was my first taste of fresh pineapple, and I never forgot it or fell out of love with it–or my Dad, for giving us such a spectacular and fresh warm weather treat.
The World’s Healthiest Foods site (one of my favorite places to “nerd out” on fun factoids about fruits and veggies) says that pineapples “are a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each fruitlet can be identified by an ‘eye,’ the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.” Pineapple also contains a complex mixture of substances called bromelaine in the core and stem of the fruit. Bromelaine acts to reduce excessive inflammation, coagulation of the blood and even tumor growth. Bromelaine has only been tested as an extracted supplement, but there is a strong suggestion that eating the fruit itself may also provide these benefits. That makes sense to me. And research shows that pineapple is indisputably loaded with vitamin C.
Christmas around here got crowned with pineapple. Kelly dotted the delicious personal gluten free oil free veggie pizzas she made us with little chunks of pineapple. Mike flavored his very big breakfast bowl with crushed pineapple. We made Susan’s pineapple coffee cake gluten free with date syrup, and ate it with banana ice cream on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. So I got bit by the pineapple bug again. But once the kids left I didn’t want to tempt myself with a whole cake made from flour. Too much flour, even gluten free flour, too many days in a row does my fibromyalgia no good and makes my rosacea flare up. So I concocted a tropical version of my Holy Shadow Cookies. Here’s what I came up with:
Hawaiian Holy Shadow Cookies
(all measurements are approximate, subject to my faulty hindsight and not using measuring spoons or cups either at all or very precisely)
about 2 cups of gluten free oats
about 1/3 cup of oats coarsely ground into meal
about 1 1/3 cups of cooked amaranth, mixed with ½ mashed banana about ½ tsp vanilla and ½ tsp coconut extract (or more to taste) and a generous shake of cinnamon
mix oats in bowl with generous shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Add 2 tbs of chopped pecans/almonds.
add cooked amaranth mixture
add about 1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice
add 2-3 chopped medjool dates
add about ¼ cup chopped dried papaya
add 2-3 dried apricots, chopped
add about a teaspoon of fresh gated ginger
add ¼ cup almond milk mixed with half a mashed banana, 3 drops of stevia, another ½ tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of coconut extract, or more, to taste)
mix everything together thoroughly. If too wet add another handful of oats. Form into cookie patties on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment. Sprinkle tops of cookies with powdered ginger and nutmeg
Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 minutes. (The pineapple makes them very moist. Mine took close to 45 minutes to firm up and turn golden on the bottom)
My long time Capricorn friend and I here in Moscow have known each other for 20 years. Our birthdays are just days apart, and we usually celebrate them in some way together. This year my friend is headed off to Arizona for the month of January so we convened early, on New Year’s Eve, to mark our Capricorn-ness together. We ate the McDougall Shepherd’s Pie from the Starch Solution photographed on Susan’s facebook page, and some steamed swiss chard. For dessert it was Hawaiian Holy Shadow Cookies, in honor of her love of dolphins and all places surrounded by tropical warm water. She ate one and took two for the road (but one was already getting eaten up as she was walking out the door to an appointment). She insisted I post the recipe on the blog. And when she gets imperative with me, I listen.
All this pineapple bliss came from the kind canned in its own juice. As my actual birthday approached, I splurged on half a fresh organic one. And compared my experience cutting it up to this breakthrough I wrote about a couple of years ago:
“August 8, 2010
Last night I cut my own pineapple up. I had never done it before. Or if I have, I don’t remember when. Either way, I couldn’t have even attempted it three years ago. The pineapple would have been too heavy and slippery, and I would have been too weak. I started out armed with a friend’s instructions about how she did it, but that quickly was modified by memories of watching my Dad “saw ” it with a serated knife. So I got one of those out. I felt his presence very strongly with me as I worked away on it, along with the memory of the pineapple of my 10th birthday party. Such an exotic thing in January. Where did that pineapple even come from in those days at that time of year?
As I told my friend, pineapples have always been cut by the men in my life. First my Dad, and then Michael’s Dad. Each had a particular way of doing it. So I stayed out of it. In later years, I would not have stayed out of it, but it was no longer in my skill set to try. But last night it was. And as I began my friend’s “way,” my Dad’s “way” came back to me, so that I was sawing off the sides, rather then slicing them away. Or so it seemed. And maybe there was a memory in my hands of that. It was very interesting, and much easier than I had anticipated, though I had to be careful not to let it slip out of my hands. I modified as I went in ways that would work for me. And I realized how much better at chopping and slicing in general I now am. Not fast fast, but more able, my hands working less like paws and more like hands. There it is again. That image of hands that have had to paw becoming more hand-like again. Just enjoying I could do it all, even cutting the top off, and not going blank about what the first step might be.”
I am a big supporter of locally grown produce, and a pineapple in Northern Idaho is far from that ideal. It felt decadent to buy even a half one for myself. But I did it anyway, letting it be one of those beautiful exceptions that proves the rule. And because part of me always reverts to being a kid when my birthday comes around. And longs for something exotic. But who needs Fairy Tale Town or ice cream cake when I can savor a pineapple in the middle of Winter? My body thanks me for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost, and I don’t need a throne or any crown (other than the spiked blue green leaves of the pineapple) to feel like a queen.