Thursday, September 25th, 2014

The Forgotten Meal

IMG_0131If someone asks you to name all of the meals of the day, I’m assuming that you’ll say: “breakfast, lunch and dinner“. If you’re fancy, you might throw in afternoon tea. If you’re a hobbit, you’ll include second breakfast. Interstitial-nibbling and habits of the Shire aside, it’s the trifecta of morning, midday, and evening meals that we all know and recognize. But I’m here to put a pin in that inflated myth, because if you have a child, or have yourself ever been a child (I’m guessing you have), then you know what happens between arrival home from school and actual dinnertime: Ravenous eating, pantry-raiding, cookie jar emptying, fridge strafing consumption. What I have christened: The Forgotten Meal.

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Here is Belle enjoying a forgotten meal after arriving home at the end of the school day (along with our new puppy Lulu, aka the reason why I haven’t been posting with any regularity for the last couple of weeks, because most of my time is spent preventing her from pooping in the house–more on her later!). Belle has been known to polish off an entire apple crisp within minutes of arriving home from the bus. I’m not joking. The child is hungry when she gets home; and not only that, several days a week she has swimming practice and dance class, so it’s basically crucial that she get something in her belly before these activities start. Something satisfying, filling, healthful, and tasty, that does not require cooking. Basically not a Hot Pocket.

As a kid, my forgotten meals were pretty helter-skelter… In elementary school, I recall eating a lot of Mallomars at my grandparents house—which is where I went most days after school because my parents were at work. In middle-school, I was lucky enough to have a friend whose dad owned the best deli in New Jersey (Town Hall in South Orange!), which was also serendipitously on our route home. We would stop in everyday and Mr. Burdorf would give each girl in the walking posse the thick heel from a loaf of rye bread slathered in soft butter, along with a giant dill pickle, which we would happily consume on the way home. In high school, I recall a lot of scrambling for enough change to buy a slice of pizza on the way to field hockey practice (note: owning a pizzeria anywhere near a high school is a brilliant business move), but the rest of the year, my girlfriend Radhika and I would come to my house after school and make her version of a Taco Salad, which was basically vegetarian junk food: Shredded iceberg lettuce topped with a drained can of red beans, chopped tomato and cucumber, crushed tortilla chips, and shredded cheddar cheese, all drowned in bottled French dressing. Although oddly satisfying (don’t knock it ’till you try it), this forgotten meal was more of a teenage-level preparation; for the elementary-or middle school ages kid, a salad is not going to cut it.

So what do I think is the ideal Forgotten Meal? It’s a sliceable loaf or bread that’s full of fruits or something savory (typically made with a combination of buttermilk, eggs, and butter, perhaps with some chocolate chips stirred in): Banana bread. Zucchini bread. Lemon loaves. Pumpkin bread. I make them all.

IMG_0156Our favorite in the rotation right now is a banana loaf from a cookbook I’ve raved about before: Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini, founder and chef of Rose Bakery in Paris. Her book is full of wonderful loaves, cakes, and breads, but the banana is truly a masterpiece. I deliberately allow a bunch of bananas to go overripe (TIP: you probably already know this but if not: soft, brown spot-mottled bananas make for the sweetest, moistest banana bread) each week, just so I can make the Rose Bakery banana bread for our Forgotten Meal. I typically make two of them at a time because they go so fast (and also frequently gets consumed for breakfast as well). I also like to play with the recipe, like adding dark chocolate chips (TIP: if you toss the chips with a little bit of flour first, so that they’re lightly coated, they’re less likely to sink to the bottom of the loaf while baking, and instead stay evenly distributed throughout…something I neglected to do with the loaf pictured up top) and substituting almond flour or whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose flour (about 1/4 of the amount asked for).

IMG_0141Here are recipes for some of my favorite breads and loaves that will hopefully get you over the chasm between arrival home and dinner. And if you have your own favorite forgotten meal recipe–please share!

Zucchini Bread

Olive Oil Cake

Carrot Cake

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

Lemon Loaf

Banana Bread

Gluten-Free Banana Cupcakes

*Bonus: Interesting article on the global appeal of banana breads

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