I’m back from two weeks of unbroken sunshine, warm lake water, starry nights, canoeing and encounters with wild things.
Some, like the carpenter ants invading the cabin, were unwelcome. Others were magical. One day I lifted a board in the compost pit, and found a handsome garter snake, black with a yellow stripe, coiled up in rectangles with the precision of a small modernist sculpture.
On the trip in, we barged the Land Rover onto the island. On landing, our friend Jerome had an encounter with a clamp on the barge that cut a deep gouge on his right forearm.
We drove up to the cabin, found the first aid kit, cleaned the wound and put on a bandage, then unpacked the truck, made up the beds and put away everything that’s dangerous to eat if it’s not kept cold – all while trying to keep Jerome sitting down.
By the time we were settled, we were all tired, but thankfully not hugely hungry, thanks to a late lunch. Still, we needed something with enough heft to take us through the night.
Jerome asked for crackers and cheese, which is when I realized that I hadn’t really brought that kind of cracker. I did the best I could: a slice of Bread Affair sourdough, a generous cut of Brie, a sprinkling of blueberries and a drizzle of honey. (Berries, brie and honey is a favorite combination. Here’s another example, with blackberries, from last summer.)
Maybe I was more hungry than I thought. Maybe it was the fresh air. But this little bite was superb, satisfying on every level: satiety, taste, texture, aesthetics. I sat back with the happy feeling of having settled into my cabin cooking groove in record time.
Nine days later, I made Chocolate Wiggies – about as big a departure from brie and sourdough as it’s possible to make.
Wiggies, which you may know by any number of other names, are an unbaked chocolate cookie. You heat butter, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan, boil it for 90 seconds, then add vanilla, between two and four cups of oatmeal, and whatever else you have on hand that seems approriate.
This makes them excellent cabin cooking food: you don’t have to fire up the oven and squander propane, and the ingredients are likely to be on hand.
I made them because we’d run out of chocolate chip cookies and needed a sweet, no-trouble snack.
I can’t remember when I first made these cookies, although by the time I was in high school they were one of my study-night standbys. Given Mom’s faith in the nutritional power of rolled oats, I suspect she saw them as an oatmeal delivery system, and an easier sell than porridge.
Wiggies do, in fact, have some modern virtues. Yes, they contain butter and sugar, but they are gluten-free, although not safe for Celiacs. (Brown rice flakes might work as a substitute, but I haven’t tried them.)
The recipe I’ve been using lately is from Chocolate Kicks and other recipes for the Chocolate Addict, by Edna McHugh, first printed in 1970, back when drugs were still fun. “Wiggies,” presumably from “wigged out,” or “flipping your wig,” is one of 50 recipes, each one with a drug name: Chocolate Grass, Chocolate Joints, Chocolate Hash, Chocolate Speed, Chocolate Crystal, Chocolate LSD – and on and on.
The weird thing is that Mom and Dad gave me the book. What were they thinking? But here’s a measure of the changing times: I was 20, and as innocent of recreational drugs as they were.
Because I didn’t foresee the need for Wiggies, I didn’t have the recipe, so I checked out the cabin cookbooks.
Joy of Cooking turned up nothing under “unbaked cookies.” But in the Five Roses Guide to Good Cooking, published some time in the 1960’s, I found the ominously named “Oat Delights,” and The New Purity Cookbook, of about the same vintage, offered “Chunky Chocolate Morsels.”
Chocolate Wiggies may have a druggy title, but Chunky Chocolate Morsels reads like a recipe inspired by illegal substances: a generous amount of rum flavoring, two cups of coconut, walnuts, maraschino cherries and a cup of mini-marshmallows – cut in half.
Really? They’re already MINI-marshmallows, for heaven’s sake.
Between the two of them I cobbled together a base recipe, then scoured the cupboards for something else to add, which turned out to be very old dried apricots, chopped small.
I would not say that we flipped our wigs over them. But they were good, and chocolate. And when there’s no store that isn’t a boat ride and a couple of hours away, those are solid virtues.
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
- 3 cups quick oats
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup coconut
- Mix together and bring to a boil the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa. Boil for 1-1/2 minutes. remove from heat and add rest of the ingredients.
- Drop by slightly rounded teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Chill till firm.
- “Flip yours.”