In our mom’s mind, we didn’t get enough vitamins. Vitamins, minerals or roughage. She might have been right.
After all, my sister and I preferred our noodles with cream gravy instead of tomato sauce. Cream gravy and Roger’s syrup, if you must know. And if there was a food group we liked as well as fats and carbs, it was represented by Grandma Friesen’s homemade hamburgers, fried in glistening pools of sizzling fat. (We once squeezed a cooked patty between two napkins and could have used the napkins as a torch.)
To us, vegetables meant potatoes, also fried.
This dearth of leafy greens and phytochemicals, however, wasn’t as bad as all this may read.
In summer, the garden in our backyard meant never having to go inside for mid-day snacks. We’d simply pluck a carrot from the soil, wipe it off on our shorts, and munch away. No dressings or dips, no cheese sauce, required.
The same was true of young radishes, and raw corn-on-the-cob with its leaves and silks torn back. And peas sweeter than candy, their pods more fun to open than cellophane wrappers.
And although I never told Mom, I was sometimes known to scoot across the back alley, into the garden of a neighbour and, Peter Rabbit-like, thief a nice crisp kohlrabi, which I ate like an apple.
Sometimes I even took a bite of the acerbic little plums and apricots that grew along the edge of our garden. I needn’t have, though, because fruit from B.C. arrived by the truckload all season. Off-season, there were jarred peaches and cherries.
Summer, though, was also a time for popsicles, and as a family, we liked to make our own. Mom, because she could blend real fruit juice with other good-for-you ingredients, like bananas. Us, because these popsicles were always better than the coloured sugar water sold at the corner store.
Until, that is, wheat germ suddenly became vogue.
Already, we were a Shaklee family. Daily supplements of plant chalk made certain that we kids would not grow up with bowed legs or bleeding gums.
To this day I can still taste the insides of those bottles.
But then there was the wheat germ.
Not only did wheat germ, for a time, feature in every recipe for muffins or cookies, but it became such a holy grail/grain that it began to show up in the popsicles.
Naturally, the wheat germ sunk to the bottom of the moulds, settling into a half inch layer of fibre at the top of each treat.
Now, twenty five years later, I thought we’d all put the wheat germ behind us.
Until, that is, my sister sent me a “tweaked” recipe for carrot cake. A cake featuring, you guessed it, a stealthy scoopful of wheat germ.
Sure, it has more to hide behind in carrot cake than frozen juice. But as I see it, once you start down that road, there’s no telling how far it might go.
If my sister shows up with a bottle of Shaklee, though, I’m locking the front door.
Tropical Carrot Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup wheat germ
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
14 oz can crushed pineapple
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
In a medium bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and mix in sugar, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Combine wet and dry mixtures, then fold in pineapple, carrots, coconut and nuts. Pour into a greased 13x9x2 pan and bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Mango Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz soft cream cheese
10 tbs soft butter
4 tsp vanilla
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup mango puree
Cream together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in sugar and mango until combined. Refrigerate to stiffen a little.
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into chunks (or frozen, thawed)
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp lime juice
Combine in a food processor until pureed.
– Words and photo by Darcie Hossack