Life in a Candy House – By Gretel

My brother and I started calling each other Hansel and Gretel when we realized we had grown up in a candy house. We should have given each other these monikers years ago but we had no idea our reality wasn’t the norm. It’s not customary to have dessert after every meal?  My husband provided a dose of reality when he remarked, “Your family dishes out ice cream with a spade.”

Growing up, my mother had a candy counter which consisted of gum drops, red and black licorice, peanut M&M’s, plain M&M’s, fire balls and other assorted hard candies and lastly a big jar filled with homemade cookies. It was all there in plain sight and always stocked. Strangely, I don’t remember any rules regarding this confectioner’s counter which is odd because we weren’t one of those “loosey-goosey” households – we had plenty of rules. I do remember helping myself to lots of M&M’s as a kid and I definitely ate plenty of cookies, especially when they were hot out of the oven.

Some people have a taste for salty foods and some people have a sweet tooth. We reside in the latter camp. Let’s start with breakfast. My Dad makes the world’s best waffles from scratch with a recipe that calls for separating the eggs and beating the egg whites. They are delicious especially when covered in real Vermont maple syrup. It is also acceptable in our family to have certain fruit desserts for breakfast; blueberry pie, peach cobbler, oatmeal raisin cookies.

Then comes lunch. We serve up some healthy sandwiches or salads of modest proportions. But lunch is always followed by dessert. The good news is that my Mom usually brings out a bowl of gorgeous fruit. The bad news is that she also brings out the cookie jar.

Dinner is relatively healthy. My Mom and Dad are purist and usually cook things from scratch. There is no Minute Rice or “instant” anything, and we grew up with a backyard garden which supplied plenty of fresh vegetables. But my Mom loves to bake so we could always count on something sweet to eat provided we were members of the clean plate club. We usually were.

You can imagine if my folks were like this as parents how sweet life must be for their grandkids! My older son has decided to replace his love of pb&j’s with a new love for Nutella and its chocolaty goodness. Today at lunch, he finished a Nutella sandwich on white bread, a few potato chips, gulped down some milk and and said, “Look Nani, I’ve finished lunch can I have dessert now?”.  “Sure, what would you like?” she replied.  “I want a chocolate ice cream cone!” I watched the two of them head to the kitchen. I turned to my Dad and asked, “can you really qualify for dessert if you’ve eaten a chocolate sandwich for lunch?” We both laugh.

Not gaining weight is a real challenge because not only is there an abundance of sweets and dessert, but the regular food is so delicious too. The ingredients come from the farmer’s market and are cooked into favorite family recipes. Everything is done from scratch and usually eaten outdoors on the porch; what doesn’t taste better eaten al fresco? Spending time at my parent’s house and not gaining any weight is the equivalent of loosing five to ten pounds for the shear will power it takes to not overindulge.

My brother recently posted on Facebook that he gained twenty-two pounds while writing his dissertation in coffee shops and skipping Karate. “Don’t worry, I’m sure it will melt right off once you get up here and spend a month in the candy house, Hansel.”

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