We moved this weekend, and I made these chocolate oatmeal almost-candy bars a week before the move because I knew once in the new house I’d want/need to make some classic, comforting family favorites. Moving into a new house makes me feel unmoored. Even if it’s just across town, as my move has been, I’m still viewed as a stranger in the new neighborhood. It’s not exactly like a man in a cowboy hat is going to ride over on his horse, furrow his brow, squint his eyes, and say, “You ain’t from around here.” (Quite the opposite, in fact. Two young children scampered up to our door and begged to play with our kids, followed by two lovely parents who invited us to brunch the following morning.) But it’s a strange feeling nonetheless.
Then there’s the mental process of packing up all your stuff, purging what’s not worth saving, giving things away to Goodwill. And the physical process of dragging boxes full of books that you’ve already read, and may not ever read again, but can’t bear to part with anyway.
But most unnerving is the psychological process of reviewing where you are in life. As I paw through old files, old photographs, old letters, old clothes, and think about the time when they were important, and why they’ve now lost their importance (or not), and where I thought I’d be at this point in my life and where I am and how I got here and how I’ll get to whatever’s next, well, it’s all a bit exhausting.
Cooking provides such a beautiful and uncomplicated connection to the past. I can bring all of my old, beloved recipes wherever I go, and it feels like home. When we moved into the new house, I unpacked the kitchen boxes first. I had to. I needed to see my KitchenAid mixer, my cookbooks, my good knives, my roasting pan.
This first weekend in the new house, I made roast chicken with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, blondies, coffee cake. Later today I’ll make challah. It’s all part of making this house mine. I want it to smell like my coffee cake. I want to see my chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter. I want to create a life here for my family, one that’s warm, inviting, and comforting. Cooking does that, effortlessly.
As for the chocolate oatmeal almost-candy bars, I still have a couple left in the freezer. These bars aren’t decadent, but they’re good to have around, studded with crunchy peanuts, soft chocolate, chewy raisins and oatmeal. I would suggest substituting almonds instead of peanuts and good-quality bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Coconut would be a nice addition, too. Ok, back to the boxes. Who knows what relics and treasures from my past lie in wait.