Aside from being a vegetarian, I am not a picky eater. When eating at a new restaurant, I make it a point to order something I’ve never had before. A couple weeks ago some friends and I went on a “Wildman” Steve Brill tour, and I ate stuff I picked in a Brooklyn park. I’ll try just about anything that didn’t blink before being served. Until the dessert menu comes.
As you may have noticed in my bio, I have an aversion to jelly and some fruit/cream desserts. It’s complicated, but mostly predicated around a disdain of cooked or smashed fruit and cream mixed together. A list looks a little something like this:
Fruit ice cream/frozen yogurt/sherbet: never
Fruit yogurt (nonfrozen): berry only
Fruit + cake: no, except some muffins
Fruit pie (and its relatives): yes, except cherry or citrus
Fruit pie + ice cream: yes, except cherry or citrus
Banana anything: puke
Any of the above + whipped cream: I’ll pass
There is no logic to any of these preferences, no rhyme or reason other than the quirks of taste buds. Don’t get me wrong; I love fruit. I could eat berries all day long. Apples make me very happy come fall. Grapes and I hang out pretty much all the time.
So what possessed me to pick a nearly a cup’s worth of elderberries on the Wildman walk, even after he explicitly said, “They are disappointing raw. You’ll really need to cook them.”? Curiosity? Because they were there? Because they looked pretty?
Because there was still room in my satchel.
The last time I visited my parents, my mom and I foraged through memory jungle, going through a bunch of boxes of junk in what used to be my bedroom. It’s now a catchall room for whatever my folks don’t know quite what to do with, but can’t bear to toss. Pack-rat-ism is hereditary and runs in my family on both sides.
Among the family photos, nerd trophies (perfect attendance, good citizen, outstanding alto), and holiday decorations, I found a long lost treasure. My mom and I aaawwed at the same time as I uncovered an old kid’s cookbook that we’d both grown up with.
It was a promotional cookbook produced by Westinghouse to promote (think of it!) electric ovens. The book was given to each of the girls in Mom’s Girl Scout troupe when she was about 8 or 9 years old. The cover is missing, but all the yellowed, sticky pages are still intact.
One page is especially stained. When I was a kid, Oatmeal Peach Betty was a favorite dessert at our house—it fit all my dessert criteria, and my siblings and I could help out like good little ladies and gentlemen.
A betty, like a crisp, is easier than a cobbler, which is easier than pie, so it makes a perfect dessert to make with kids, the baking challenged, or the impatient among us. Subbing the elderberries and an overflowing pint of blackberries for peaches, this comforting childhood recipe rescued me from the jelly/jam horror that was surely my fate.
It turned out beautifully. I’ve never made a fruit dessert before—let alone with berries I picked myself. I was shocked and delighted. Betty’s made for good eating this week. My dear friend and dessert connoisseur, JB, partook and said when I asked if she could tell I made an odd substitution (you’ll see), “All I taste is delicious.” Betty rules.
(Thanks, Mom, for letting me borrow the cookbook to scan. You can have it back soon, I promise.)
Wild Berry Betty (vegan)
Adapted from Oatmeal Peach Betty by Julia Kiene
Yields approximately 8 1-cup servings
2 heaping cups fresh blackberries (Note: Original recipe called for 2 cups canned peaches.)
2/3 cups fresh elderberries
2 tbsp lemon juice (Note: I was out of lemons and subbed 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. It worked like a charm.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (Note: Original recipe called for 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tbsp vegan butter (Note: Original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of regular butter)
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2/3 quick-cooking rolled oats (Note: I used regular rolled oats and it turned out fine.)
1/4 cup melted shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla (Note: I added about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp extra vanilla)
General CHG note: The original recipe calls for 2 cups of fruit. I used almost 3 cups of berries, but did not increase the amounts for the topping, and I cut the amount of butter by a 1/2 tbsp.
1) Preheat oven to 375°F.
2) Coat 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or your cooking lube of choice.
3) Add washed berries into greased casserole.
4) Sprinkle cinnamon and lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar if you’re me) over the berries.
5) Dot berries with vegan butter.
6) Before measuring, sift flour, then measure and sift again with salt and baking soda into a medium mixing bowl.
7) Add oats into flour and mix well.
8) Melt shortening in a small saucepan or microwave safe dish.
9) Add brown sugar to shortening.
10) Combine brown sugar and shortening with flour and rolled oats mixture. Stir until crumbly. Add vanilla and stir until combined.
11) Spread mixture over berries and bake at 375° for 45 minutes.
12) Serve hot or cold with soy ice cream as shown. It breaks no rules and is amazingly delicious. Oh. So. Good.
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
176.6 cal, 7.9g fat, $ .49
blackberries: 143 cal, 2 g fat, approx. $2.50 (from the CSA)
elderberries: 71 cal, .6g fat, free (picked in the park)
apple cider vinegar: 3 cal, 0g fat, $.01
vegan butter: 50 cal, 5.5 fat, $.06
flour: 225 cal, .6g fat, $.14
baking soda: negligible calories and fat, $.01
salt: negligible calories and fat, $.01
rolled oats: 203 cal, 3g fat, $.08
shortening: 440 cal, 52g fat, $.31
brown sugar: 279 cal, 0g fat, $.19
vanilla: negligible calories and fat, $.58
cinnamon negligible calories and fat, $.02
TOTALS: 1413 calories, 63.7g fat, $3.91
PER SERVING: 176.6 cal, 7.9g fat, $ .49