Those acquainted with DB know quite well that he is a boy who enjoys the table.
He's not chubby (anymore - as a baby he was more like a butter ball turkey than an infant). But given the choice between prime position on the trampoline or a primo grazing spot in front of the buffet, he'd chose buffet every time.
We've recently discovered that darling DB may have a gluten intolerance, which means no standard bread, pasta, cake, cookies, dumplings, cereal, noodles, or anything else containing wheat or standard flour.
This is on top of a lactose intolerance.
Combine that with lunch box restrictions made necessary by the quite serious allergies of his classmates (no nuts, eggs, or fish allowed) and I am struggling to find anything suitably "treaty" for the conclusion of his at-school midday meal.
The news of this latest dietary limitation is still relatively new and I spent much of last week trying to find my feet in this brave new gluten-free world.
Scouring the internet (where were before the internet???) for recipes that accommodated our many restrictions, my shopping list began to fill up with unfamiliar ingredients, like guar gum and sorghum flour.
No doubt these products have infinitely improved the culinary enjoyment of those who cannot tolerate gluten (especially those with celiac disease which, luckily, DB does not seem to have), but they make me feel more chemist than cook and that's a transition I am not ready to make just yet.
Instead, I continue to hunt for more familiar solutions to the lunch box dilemma. And so far, the results have been more than palatable.
Today DB trotted off to school with a thermos full of green chicken curry and brown rice, an apple, some rice crackers and a Brown Sugar & Chocolate Meringue Sandwich.
The sugar content in this little number is so high they may have to scrape him off the ceiling before I can get him into the car at pick-up, and I can only imagine how much stain remover it will take to eliminate the inevitable chocolate hand-prints from the front of his top, but I couldn't help sending it anyway.
It would be hard to overstate the role of food - the preparation and the enjoyment of it - in our family. And I just can't bear to relegate DB, or anyone else, to a second-class diet high on compromise or deprivation, and low on enjoyment.
Because enjoyment is what it's all about.
Brown Sugar & Chocolate Meringue Sandwiches
Brown Sugar Meringues
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the brown sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the salt and beat until the meringue is thick and glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Dollup tablespoons of meringue on parchment paper, leaving 1 inch between each dollop. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until meringues are dry and not sticky to the touch. Remove from oven and cool.
The Brown Sugar Meringue recipe stops there. The little pale brown discs were nice, but I couldn't help feeling that something extra was needed to make them truly exciting, so I added my own touch: Melted Chocolate Sandwich Filling.
100g/3.5 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cocoa or greater
2 Tablespoons icing/confectioner's sugar
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Break chocolate into one inch pieces and place in microwave-proof mixing bowl. Microwave on "defrost" or "low" for one or two minutes, until chocolate is just melted, taking care not to let it reach the bubbling point. Whisk in sugar, then vegetable oil.
Peel the meringues from the parchment and dip the bottom of each in the melted chocolate, sandwiching pairs and placing them back on the tray as you go along. Transfer tray to the freezer for 3 minutes. Remove and store in airtight container.
P. S. When I gave him a peek this morning, the sheer decadence of these treats made DB's eyes pop. Just what I hoped for.