My mother was, and always will be, a vision of long legs, tiny torso, and head of ashy blond hair that spills down her back. With the art of thinness on her side (and plate), I grew up marveling at her portion control and impossible ratio of pasta to vegetable. I’ll let you guess which food group occupied more space.
From the other end of the table, I grew up watching the way she twirled her pasta, dexterously, curating the most elegant (if that adjective is even appropriate here) bite of food. She would then wipe the corners of her mouth after each bite and pause for a sip of water. I, on the other hand, would seize this break in communal dining as an opportunity to place my plate on the floor and lick every last puddle of sauce from my trough. Ah. The apple hath fallen far, very far.
Each year, around the holidays, I would tug at the hems of my mother’s metaphorical apron and inquire about which dessert we would be making. Like Christmas clockwork, I’d watch her thin lips morph into a pondering pout as she spun the lazy Susan around in search of her clear recipe box, something she hardly referred to. (Perhaps the apple fell a little closer.)
As she raised the container to her mouth to blow the proverbial dust from off the top, I knew just what her spindly fingers were after: Hello Dolly Bars, the mecca of all things caramel, coconut, butterscotch, and chocolate.
The provenance of the name remains a mystery, but the recipe was a classic. Together, we would excavate the ingredients from our perfectly alphabetized and expiration-date aligned pantry (thanks to a father with OCD). Carefully lining the countertop with the divine fixings, we poured each component into the mixing bowl. As shades of tan swirled into dark brown pastes, I took the liberty of dumping an extra handful of butterscotch chips each time she turned her statured back. Refer back to the rare utilization of recipes. If two women could single-handedly be held responsible for the extinction of measuring cups, surely we could eliminate them in one fell swoop of over-poured ingredients.
Once the butter-soaked crust was pressed into the pan and layered with gooey goodness, we placed our decadent, delayed gratification in the oven and listened to music while waiting to “taste test” our creation, even though the dependable results were long committed to memory. And each year, during cleanup, I’d watch Mom lick any leftover batter from the mixing bowl--every last drop of caramel, coconut, butterscotch, and chocolate. That skinny bitch.
Vanessa Woy is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives with her partner and their two dogs on the edge of a river in Connecticut.
Hello Dolly Bars
4 T. butter
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. butterscotch and/or chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. shredded coconut
1 14-oz. can Eagle Brand condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a 9 x 9 pan.
Melt butter in pan.
Mix in graham cracker crumbs and press into pan.
Top with chips, nuts, and coconut.
Pour condensed milk over top, without mixing or stirring.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cool before cutting.