Sharing Our Strength

This post is in conjunction with Share our Strength, and the 12 Days of Sharing campaign to end child hunger.

Jennifer Perillo has organized an all-star team of bloggers sharing their favorite holiday recipes, and a drool-worthy list of giveaways (the Wusthof knife set is calling me!) Check out these fabulous recipes in the Virtual Cookie Jar and please, drop a donation in the bucket. One in four children are hungry in America.

As a child, the financial state of my family ebbed far more than it flowed. We were in serious jeopardy more than once. I’d like to think I was oblivious to the trouble, but it was difficult to hide. Constant worrying manifested itself physically. My mother suffered from bleeding ulcers and ongoing back problems most of my life. Hurt and frustration turned to anger and individually, we comforted ourselves the best we could.

My brother and I earned extra money by delivering newspapers. He took the morning route, and I covered afternoons and weekends. Winters, he shoveled snow for money, and I sold Girl Scout cookies to secure a free trip to camp.

In the early years, my mom was on the career track. That came to an abrupt end the summer I was six. I was at the babysitter’s house…and fell from a tree. I dropped 16 feet and landed on my back. Rushed to the hospital, they did exploratory surgery, checking for internal bleeding. E-rays confirmed a broken vertebra in my back. I was hospitalized, and then strapped in a brace for 6 months. Before I left the hospital, I also contracted the chicken pox. My mother was forced to quit her job and nursed me back to health. From that point on, babysitters were out of the question. Mom worked only while we were in school, and never in the summers.

I’ll never forget the day I rode my bike to the bank. Depositing funds from my paper route, the teller passed my savings book across the cool marble counter and I proudly checked my balance. My entire savings had been wiped out! The teller offered little explanation other than, “The numbers don’t lie.”

I cried all the way home, falling into my mother’s arms, wailing, “The bank stole my money!”

After the sobbing subsided, she explained what happened. We shared a joint account and in desperation, she withdrew the money to pay taxes on our house. There was no alternative. I was 10, maybe 11, but I’ll never forget that look on her face. I can’t imagine what went through her mind. Embarrassed and ashamed, she vowed to pay me back, somehow.

We knew lean times….but we never went hungry. I’m sure it was close sometimes.

After my humble background, my life in food seems quite ridiculous sometimes. While foodies debate the merits of grass fed vs. grain fed, fair trade vs. locovore and declare “I’m so over pork belly and truffles.” The fact of the matter is, these are choices of luxury.

When there’s a rumble in your belly and the cupboards are bare…the situation becomes dire. I know. Our house in the suburbs with the perfectly manicured lawn hid many secrets.

In the richest country in the world, hunger is far more prevalent than you might imagine. And that is why I’m proud to join Share Our Strength’s mission to end child hunger in America.

Can you help?

With Share Our Strength’s buying power, $25 can make a significant impact. Skip one night out on the town and donate to a worthy cause…The price of one entrĂ©e, can help end child hunger.



Chocolate Crinkles

When times were flush, mom made these Chocolate Crinkles. Rolled in powdered sugar, they expand when baked, creating snowflake patterns against a chocolaty background. Mom would pack them in shirt boxes, lined with tissue. Stacked in our garage through the frozen Midwest winter, the cookie-laden boxes would last for weeks. My brother and I became quite stealthy, sneaking into the garage for “just one more…” Word of warning…drifting powdered sugar may leave tell-tale evidence on your chest!

Makes about 72

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Stir together oil, chocolate and granulated sugar. Blend in one egg at a time until well

mixed. Add vanilla. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt into oil mixture. Chill several hours or overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioner's sugar. Roll in sugar; shape into balls. Place about 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Update: This post was profiled on Food News Journal's Best of the Blogs, December 18, 2009.