I have many fond memories from childhood, some of which, little did I know at the time, had a significant impact on my life as an adult.
My dad is from Minnesota and my mom is from North Dakota. They met on a blind date in California and married 6 months later. That was 56 years ago. Being Midwesterners, we had lots of family out that way and went to visit fairly often.
One of those ‘fond’ memories is the frequent road trips we took in our 1965 Wildcat Buick from California to North Dakota to visit my mom’s family. That’s approximately 1,800 miles, or about 26 hours in a car, which, might I add, had NO air conditioning. Back then, to turn on the A/C, we rolled down all four windows and put the pedal to the metal. Today, I’m not sure you can even buy a car without A/C.
Although I have a brother, Bill, he is 8 years my senior. When I was 10, he had graduated high school and was off making his way in the world. That made me a pseudo only child.
We had a Friday night ritual that I always loved. My parents and I would go to dinner at Stickney’s Restaurant, which used to be in Valley Faire at the current Cheesecake Factory location. Afterward, we would head down a creepy staircase below the mall to B.Dalton Booksellers. Oh! Such fun!!! Stickney’s had so many wonderful things but the two I remember most are the toy box and the bakery.
After dinner, the waitress would inspect each child’s plate and if she thought you ate enough, she would invite you to go to the “toy box” and pick out a prize. They also had a huge bakery in the restaurant, overflowing with pies, cakes, cookies and other mouthwatering delights. Lucky for me, my parents being Midwestern didn’t think dinner was over without dessert. My mom and dad would let me pick out a treat for dessert. I still remember peering in wide-eyed through the bakery window, trying to decide what yummy item to have that night.
Even though everything behind that window tantalized the sweet tooth senses, ultimately, my choice was between the decadent iced sugar cookie or the Florentine; my two absolute favorites. You’ve no idea how hard that decision was each and every week. For my birthday, my mom always ordered the Burnt Almond Cake. This cake was like nothing I’ve ever tasted in my life. It was caramel-fluffy-goodness that cannot be described.
After I’d made my oh-so-difficult dessert decision, we wandered over to B. Dalton Booksellers where I would write down my wish list of the books I wanted. To this day, the hardback copies of “Tom Sawyer” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” hold court in my nightstand and will always be treasured as my most prized possessions.
As I grew up, my love of cooking and baking flourished, I think in large part to those weekly outings to Stickney’s. Yet, during all this time, I have never attempted to make either of my favorites, the Florentine Cookie or the Burnt Almond Cake.
So, guess what finally I did today? YES! I made the Florentine Cookie! And it turned out wonderful! Just like I remember them tasting as a kid.
Guess what I am going to try to re-create next? The Burnt Almond Cake.