Keeping 'dessert piglets' fed was a full-time job
My mother never served as a Navy cook, but she could have without a problem. In fact, it probably would have been easier for her to feed several hundred sailors than it was to keep my two brothers and me fed.
Keeping us fed was roughly equivalent of trying to fill in the Grand Canyon with a teaspoon, but she accomplished that feat.
Even more impressive was the fact that she was able to maintain some control of her three sons (and later a daughter) and our constant search for sweets of all kinds.
For example, take our mother's pinochle club meetings. The eight ladies would take turns hosting the weekly card sessions, and we would eagerly await mom's turn.
She would buy various snacks for her guests to nibble on while they "pinochled" the night away, but one of the goodies held a particular attraction for us - Brach's Bridge Mix that features chocolate-covered nuts, raisins, caramels and other tasty bits.
(I don't know if the ladies violated any laws by eating "bridge mix" while playing pinochle, but my brothers and I were not going to turn them in as long as we got the leftovers.)
While the games were in full swing, we would sneak down the stairs and survey the candy dishes as if we were vultures in search of a chocolate fix.
Even though the following day was a school day, our mother did not have to drag us from our beds as she usually had to do to get us semi-awake and barely moving.
We were down the stairs as if we were practicing for Christmas morning to seek the chocolate leftovers, but mom soon got wise.
She would leave a few pieces out as bait, but she would hide the rest so she could ration the candy out after school. Then, we were marched to the kitchen for non-chocolate cereal.
This morning chocolate ban made my teacher Miss Frumpwaggle very happy, since she did not have to keep up with me on a sugar high. It was like trying to catch popping corn with tweezers.
Mother also employed a strategy for goodies that kept me from seeing my sweet tooth from decaying away. It was officially called the lesser of two evils plan.
She would make large baking pan-full desserts that we could eat AFTER we finished our evening meal. We were on DST (Dad Saving Time) in our house, so evening started early at about 4 p.m. after dad got home from teaching and took a brief nap.
Despite eloquent and well-thought-out appeals ("PLEASE, may we eat dessert first?"), we were required to finish our "regular" food before sampling the dessert of the day.
Mother had a few go-to desserts and most of them involved using the largest baking pan as possible.
Probably the most popular of the big cakes was an appropriately named one named crazy cake. It did not contain any eggs, but it did have the unusual combination of cocoa, sugar, flour and white vinegar.
Fortunately, my siblings and I did not run a chemical analysis of it. We just ate: It came. We saw. We pigged out.
Another perennial favorite was a white cake with chocolate icing. I think we would have eaten a white cake of soap if it had enough chocolate icing, so the dessert was just the cake under the icing.
My brothers and I usually headed for the nearest door or window when it came time to do the dishes after meals, but whenever our mom made icing, we would race home from anywhere within a 3-block radius to volunteer to facilitate bowl washing by licking the remaining icing.
When I got done cleaning up all the icing, my face looked as though I had been bobbing for apples in a galvanized tub filled with brown shoe polish. I think that's where I first got the idea for growing a beard.
Snap-a-doodle, baked in round cake pans, was probably the all-time favorite of us dessert piglets. It is a coffee cake topped with generous portions of brown sugar and cinnamon.
It was even better when we slathered the sides and top of the triangular piece with butter. You could eat it with a fork, but it was more of a challenge to use your hand and try to keep the buttered cake from slipping out of your grip.
Of course, there is more to life than just cake. For instance, there are pies. Mom didn't bake pies, but her cooking did put them on the table. Whenever her uncles Cyrus and Cletus came to visit, she would make a belt-loosening meal of roast beef with all the trimmings. In return, they would bring two or three pies from Horn & Hardart.
Our favorites were any kind mother's uncles brought.
Of course, mom had plenty of other tasks to see to, so sometimes she would make something quick for dessert such as sliced bananas in gelatin.
There was a bit of a challenge in spooning in the quivering mound of gelatin and bananas, but if I wanted adventure in my desserts, I preferred to take my chances with a slippery buttered slice of snap-a-doodle cake.
(Koslowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, writes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)