Sometimes life is simple. When choosing between a healthy refreshing salad and a massive plate of loaded nachos, go with the nachos. You want the nachos, but feel guilty. So you try to convince yourself to consider the salad. Obey your cravings. Have the nachos for lunch and the salad for dinner.
In my early days, my cooking repertoire was nothing fancy. Actually, I did not take a serious look at cooking until some time toward the end of my college years. But, eating? That was always of interest. Despite my parents’ best efforts to introduce me to classic multicultural cuisine, I could easily find perfect happiness with a jar of Nutella. Back then, Nutella was imported from Italy in glass jars. I could eat the whole thing with a spoon and not gain an ounce. That was breakfast. After school, a handful of graham crackers, dried tart cherries, raw pistachios, a sprinkle of instant coffee and a splash of milk thrown together into a bowl made the perfect snack before dinner. This was my Eton Mess and I had forgotten all about it, until last night.
Named after the famous college near Windsor in England, Eton Mess has been a tradition since the 1800’s. Anything that stands the test of time that long has to be good. And, this one really is. Eton Mess is very much what its name implies: A bowlful of crushed meringues, strawberries and whipped cream. Who wouldn’t like that?
Yesterday, I stayed home because our little blue-eyed beauty had caught a mean bug that made her feverish, sniffly, all-around miserable. The chicken nuggets she asked for went right to Milou’s bowl, but at least she ate half a carrot and drank some orange juice. At some point, I realized I was a bit hungry. Too tired to cook anything, I just opened the pantry door and stared into the abyss. Meringues or a nap? I had to choose one. There was no energy for making meringues, but there were plenty of graham crackers.
And while Eton Mess can be made at a moment’s notice with store-bought, ready-made meringues, few will argue the flavour and texture are a punishment. Graham crackers age much more gracefully on the shelf. Over the years, I have even tried various other types of cookies as stand-ins for the grahams. There used to be these irresistible gingerbread cookie sandwiches with a lemon cream filling at Trader Joe’s. Those did very well, but I haven’t seen them forever. I believe digestives and petits beurres may have found their way into the bowl at some point. They are all good, but my choice will always been the Honey Maid brand regular graham crackers, not the cinnamon kind. There really is no recipe here, just a combination of flavours. This is a simple snack that you can have any time of the day or night. It’s so easy to “make,” I recommend you try it at least once.
Eton Mess, My Way: A Simple Snack
4 graham crackers
1 Tb raw pistachios
1 Tb dried sour cherries
pinch instant coffee
2 Tb milk
Pick your favourite cereal bowl.
Break graham crackers into the bowl.
Top with pistachios and cherries.
Sprinkle a pinch of instant coffee on top.
Add a splash or two of milk.
Mix it all up with your spoon and enjoy!
The best things in life are free. The best things in the kitchen are simple. By definition, a snack should not be complicated. Keep your pantry stocked well and when the craving hits you, you will be prepared. Eton Mess my way is not very pretty, but it sure is tasty. The graham crackers soak up the milk and soften into a sweet mush, but the chewy cherry and crunchy pistachios hold their form under the tooth. And that hint of coffee gives you just the boost you need to carry on whatever it was you were bored doing before you got hit with the craving. But be ready to make another bowl, because someone else might want what you’re eating.