Oh, Gawd – the Holidays are here. I can tell because I’m getting weepy and nostalgic over the silliest things. Starting with the Cranberry Shortbread Tart I’m preparing for our Thanksgiving celebration and ending with Charlie Brown. Shortbread and Charlie Brown might seem like an odd partnership I know (I know), but whenever the holidays begin their approach I always find myself thinking about good ole Chuck. And Chuck was a fan of shortbread. This I know for sure.
Yes, Charlie Brown will always be a part of my Christmas mindset. But it’s not Christmas and yet I still find myself thinking about young Charlie Brown as I crumble the shortbread topping for my Cranberry Shortbread Tart.
When I was a kid there was no “on demand” TV, so Charlie Brown and his pathetic bent over Christmas tree always waited until after Turkey Day to hum their way into my heart. Nothing could get me wound up for the Holidays quite like Lucy refusing to eat “November snowflakes” and that cute as heck Schroeder pecking away at his keyboard (I bet he’s a hottie today). I still can’t get into the Christmas spirit until I’ve heard the songs from that show. Of course, Netflix and the like have changed all that. I can stream A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I like. Holiday nostalgia is just a click away 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
But there are some Charlie Brown memories that, for me, can’t be binged on a flat screen television. Which means, these days, it takes a little more Charlie Brown to get my holiday juices flowing.
Cranberry Shortbread Tart
Whenever I get weepy and nostalgic (especially at the Holidays) my mother is is usually the culprit. She passed away quite a long time ago. In fact, I’ve now lived longer than she ever did.
Her time was short but her talent and quirks were epic. I’ve gone into them far too often on this blog. So today, I’ll just say that my mom was a great cook. She was highly influenced by Julia Child and classic French cuisine. Despite her talents with anything labeled Cordon Bleu, my mom wasn’t much of a traditional-suburban-mom-baker as far as I recall. To her credit, she made really good oatmeal cookies and she accurately considered chocolate fondue an acceptable replacement to birthday cake. Still, the most memorable meals from my childhood almost never included something sweet at the end – unless it was wrapped in a crêpe.
However, I do remember one time about a week before Thanksgiving when I convinced her to make lemon bars using a recipe straight out of the Charlie Brown Cookbook. It was a prized possession of mine and somehow “just this once” I got her excited about a recipe containing absolutely no French grammar.
I can still picture the generous way she read the recipe aloud to me as we gathered all the ingredients together. I’m sure, thanks to Charlie Brown, this was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase mise en place uttered.
The recipe must have come together quickly and easily, I have no real memories of the actual cooking. You see, the thing about a vintage 1970 Charlie Brown Cookbook is this: every recipe must have been quite simple to prepare. So I’m surprised that my mother gasped and decried the whole thing a failure before we ever got those lemon bars into the oven. The thing my mom found so distressful about the recipe was how much extra shortbread dough there was leftover (she believed a lemon bar should have a thin, delicate base). She couldn’t just throw the excess away – so she did the first thing that made sense to her. She crumbled the extra dough on top of the lemon bars giving them a crumble-top that Charlie Brown never intended.
So, as Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t seem to stop myself from crumbling a bit of extra shortbread on the top of my Cranberry Shortbread Tart. GREG
PS If you come back after thanksgiving I’ll post a picture of a slice of this Cranberry Shortbread Tart with its nostalgic crumble topping.