I spent about 15 minutes this morning fretting that this photograph wasn’t good enough.
It’s messy. You can’t see the ooze on the cookies. The top cracked — I ran out of AP flour before I needed 46 grams of it, so I just used sweet rice flour. Don’t do that anymore, Shauna. Too starchy. It doesn’t hold together the same way. I wanted to hide that. I should have cleaned the counter if I was going to show this. Man, I forgot to clean out the food processor — oh right, we sat down to breakfast, and then Lu spilled her entire cup of apple juice, and we didn’t have any clean kitchen towels so I had to use a bath towel. I hope I remember to wash those before her bath tonight. I wanted a better picture of these.
And then I stopped being so silly and selfish and put up the picture. You know why?
A hungry kid wouldn’t give a shit about any of that. He would be thrilled to have these messy ginger-lemon bars. She would be grateful to have something to eat.
Did you know that, according to the great organization Share Our Strength (as well as other governmental and non-profit agencies), more than 17 million American kids are going to bed hungry. Tonight. And most nights. When I think of not having enough food to give Lu that I have to put her to bed with her stomach stretched open, and her possibly crying herself to sleep, I want to vomit. I cannot handle the thought of her suffering that way. Do you how many parents are going to bed feeling horrible about themselves, as well as hungry?
People, this isn’t a political issue. It’s a food issue. It’s a children’s issue. It’s a human issue.
(If you want a better understanding of what is happening and how, please read this collection of articles on Understanding Childhood Hunger.)
I know. Like me, you’ve heard these statistics. And we feel bad for a few minutes, maybe even really bad, then we move on. If you haven’t been truly hungry before, this might feel abstract.
My friend Brooke just published a courageous piece, an essay about being a hungry kid, and the shame shame shame that went with it. Read it. We need to make this real if we’re going to feed these more than 17 million kids.
By the way, that’s 1 in 4 kids in the United States going to bed hungry. 1 in 4.
Also, it’s December, when we’re all thinking about cookies and bounty and candy canes and more food and complaining that we’ll miss out on some of the feasts because we can’t eat gluten or eggs or dairy or something else that feels essential to make new memories. It’s also December, when the temperatures in places like Minnesota are reaching –33 degrees. Imagine going to bed hungry in that weather.
We have to do something about this.
What can we do? Plenty.
Our friend Carol is having an incredible auction on her website, Alinea at Home. She set up a special Alinea at Home Share Our Strength campaign page, where you can donate. She has dozens of great prizes you can win if you donate. (We’re honored that our cookbook is one of them.) Donate and win? Come on.
You can buy a copy of Creating a Meal You’ll Love: Notable Chefs and Food Writers on Their Unforgettable Dining Experiences, a warm, lovely collection of essays about memorable meals. I’m honored to be in there, along with people like people like Susur Lee, Karen Coates, Nick Malgieri, Mimi Sheraton, and Marcus Samuelsson. (How did I land in this group?) Every essay is filled with sensory details that will make you hungry. And since the royalties for the book are all going to Share Our Strength, you can help someone else who is hungry by reading.
Or, we can give directly to Share Our Strength, which has no other mission than trying to feed kids.
It can be more local than any of those options.
Someone in your community is hungry. If it’s 1 out of 4 kids going hungry, there’s no way it skipped your town. There must be a food bank, a place to donate, a neighbor who looks a little weary who could use some home-baked food. We’re in this together.
We’re working at the island food bank for the holiday season. We may be busy this year, but we’re not too busy to help.
I hope this hasn’t seemed like preaching. Some of you may be skipping right to the cookie recipe instead of reading this. I hope it’s not most of you.
See, we have food in our house. You probably do too. We have enough food in our homes to play with it, take photographs of it, write about it, and selfishly worry that it all doesn’t look good enough.
I hope you let it all be messy and find a way to spend your time giving instead. I sure wish I could give these lemon bars to a hungry kid.
We would like to give more with this post.
Would you like to win a copy of our cookbook? There’s plenty in there that could feed hungry neighbors well.
We’re also giving away 3 copies of Creating a Meal You’ll Love: Notable Chefs and Food Writers on Their Unforgettable Dining Experiences, as well as a copy of The Greyston Bakery Cookbook: More Than 80 Recipes to Inspire the Way You Cook and Live.
Simply leave a comment about hunger. Were you a hungry kid? If so, sharing your story here might help others to make this more real. Have you fed hungry kids? Let us know about your experience. How do you give this time of the year? Let us know.
GLUTEN-FREE GINGER-LEMON BARS, adapted from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook: More Than 80 Recipes to Inspire the Way You Cook and Live
These lemon bars come from a very good baking book, one you probably don’t know at all. Written by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (now of the always-informative website The Kitchn), this baking book offers tried and tested recipes for cakes, cookies, bars, and tarts from the Greyston Bakery. Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York was founded by Zen Buddhist teacher Bernie Glassman in 1982. Its mission? To hire homeless and unemployed folks and give them job training and a career.
Have you ever eaten a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with brownies or cookie dough? You’ve eaten baked goods from Greyston. (And of course, I’m not eating those anymore. However, Greyston Bakery has a great line of gluten-free baked goods for you to eat too.)
Sarah Kate worked at Greyston for a few years as the director of the Community Garden Project for the Greyston Foundation. As she writes, “The ethics I absorbed during my time at Greyston inform my work.” I’m sure they do.
Oh, did I forget to mention these ginger-lemon bars? And the fact that they have just the right amount of mouth-puckering tartness to make lemon bar fans happy? Or that when Danny tasted one this morning for the first time, there was total silence, then a quiet “Oh my god.” Yes.
Good people make good food, it seems. These lemon bars are keepers.
for the crust
280 grams all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 US sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, at room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons ice cold water
for the topping
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
46 grams all-purpose flour mix
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find a 9 x 13 baking pan in your cupboard. Grease it with the oil or butter of your choice. Lay down a large piece of parchment paper, large enough to leave 1 inch of paper hanging over the two long sides.
Making the crust. Pull out the food processor and attach the blade. Combine the flour, xanthan gum, guar gum, brown sugar, powdered sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse them together to aerate the flour. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal.
Whisk together the egg and water. With the food processor running, pour the eggy water into the bowl. Pulse only until the mixture begins to hold together. Stop the food processor and pinch the dough between your fingers. If it holds together, you are done. Err on the side of the dough being a bit too dry than too wet.
Baking the crust. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press it down evenly. (You can do this with a piece of plastic wrap between you and top, if you wish.) Bake until the top is slightly golden and starting to set, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 300°.
Making the topping. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon juice, flour, sugar, and lemon zest, then whisk them all together. Pour the topping over the crust. Put the pan back in the oven and bake until the top has set firm, about 30 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and put it on a wire rack to cool completely. When there is not a hint of warmth to the lemon bars, lift the parchment paper from the pan by grabbing all four corners. The lemon bars will come with you. Put the parchment paper onto a cutting board and cut the delightful dessert into bars.
Dust the lemon bars with powdered sugar before you serve.
(These will keep for 3 days. Yeah right. Like they are going to last that long!)
Makes 2 dozen.