Lowbrow - n. One having uncultivated tastes.
When I was a kid -- let's say 8 years old -- I would often spend the night at my grandma's house. She lived in a duplex, and her house was locked with skeleton keys. There was a huge collection of costume jewelry and scarves for playtime, and she would let me clip all the scarves to her clothesline so I could watch the colors blow in the breeze.
The highlight of these sleepovers was a trip to Ponderosa Steakhouse, where I would order the salad bar, then go to town eating an Oreo-laden whipped cream/frosting/pudding concoction that was located near the Jell-O. I laugh now and also am disgusted by how much of that stuff I ate, but I was a kid and Oreo whipped cream was an adventure.
I love every dessert on this list. They haven't been reduced to a foam or listed as "deconstructed" on the menu -- they are simple, unsexy desserts. They deserve some street cred for their amazingly humble flavors.
The desserts bring back memories, and tasting them again as an adult, it's like, "Damn, I was a smart kid! This is tasty!" Well, except maybe that Oreo whipped cream/frosting/pudding mixture.
My husband dragged me camping last year. After the first night, we bailed, due to extreme cold. We ended up in Flagstaff at Lumberyard Brewing Company. Good beer. Good burgers. On a whim, my husband ordered the banana pudding.
It hit the table and after the first bite, we both looked at each other. Holy shit, this is really good! It comes in a mason jar with cream vanilla pudding, bananas, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream, all for $4.95. (Add a dollar if you want to take it to go.)
Texas Sheet Cake
I haven't had a great sheet cake in a long time. I don't know whether people stopped making it or whether they go overboard trying to sexy up something that should remain simple.
That golden buttery cake with a thick layer of sweet milk chocolate frosting . . . Is there anything better with a glass of milk? This is what I want at a family picnic on a beautiful day.
Shoo Fly Pie
A Pennsylvania Dutch classic treat, I've tried putting Shoo Fly Pie on the specials menu at various restaurants I've worked, and have never sold it out. A rich, molasses pie, it is super-simple to make. Literally whisk together, throw in pie crust top with crumb, bake, eat.
I've tried to gussy up Shoo Fly, but she is perfect in her simple form. Rich, gooey and so sweet.
My mom never made no bakes, but I had friends whose mothers turned them out for different events and birthdays. Oats, peanut butter, chocolate, yes, thanks!
My friends and I would whip up a batch then eat these till we were ill. The least appealing of cookies, they aren't gorgeous by any means. However, they are the anti-bakers way to make a delicious cookie.
One of my oldest friends still makes these every year for her Christmas cookie box, and I usually gobble them down first.
I loved days when we would get to the dinner table and my mom had made tapioca pudding for dessert. Served a bit warm, the fat pearls swelled and thick with milk, topped with cold, slightly sweet whipped cream. Heaven, in my young mind . . . even in my adult mind.
If you hate the texture of tapioca pearls, then this isn't your bag. You can dress it up with mangos or coconut milk, but to me it is beautiful in it's original un-gussied up form.
Resurrect some of your old favorite desserts. They may not be super-sexy, but they will inspire memories, and help you remember where your young taste buds started their culinary adventure.
Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.
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