Technology and treats at Aunty B.'s

Thinking back on visits to my Aunty B.'s old house in Bruce, Alberta, three things stick out in my mind:

1. Her computer.

Aunty B. was the first person I knew to own a home computer, an Apple no less. I thought she was the luckiest person in the world to have this exciting machine at her constant disposal and I couldn't even begin to fathom ever owning my own. (Now on my fourth computer in the last ten years, I will admit some of the novelty has worn off.)

2. Her keyboard.

Not just any old electronic keyboard, but one with drum beats, and the sounds of stringed instruments and horns, and a memory full of pre-recorded tunes that it would teach you to play by lighting up the keys so that you could follow along. Rad.

3. Her Mrs. Larson's Bars.

My Aunty B. was perpetually prepared for the unexpected (or expected) guest who arrives at your home unannounced (or announced) and (more often than not) expecting some tea/coffee and a sweet bite. It must be an unwritten rule of rural hospitality to keep your freezer stocked with cookies, squares and bars that are ready to go at a moment's notice. While you, the drop-in, are unlacing your shoes or tugging at your boots, the host quickly retreats to the chest freezer in the basement where she furtively piles a plate with frozen goodies that is quietly hidden in the kitchen en route to the door. She returns just as you look up from your footwear in search of a place to hang your coat, which she disposes of with a smile in a hall closet well-stocked with hangers (and not her own coats). While you're chatting about the weather and the latest life/world events over the kitchen counter, the host boils water for tea and brews the coffee. Before you know it, you're sitting down to a full afternoon tea and you can't quite conceive how it all happened right under your nose.

I recall two of Aunty B.'s drop-in squares quite distinctly: the first, a triple-layer bar of shortbread, caramel and chocolate; the second, Mrs. Larson's Bars. It's the latter that appears above. Not unlike the Oat Fudge Bar from Starbucks (a reference point for the city dwellers), Mrs. Larson's Bars are marbled squares of dense chocolate fudge and rich oat and brown sugar crumbs.

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
3 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix. Add rolled oats and mix some more.

Chocolate Fudge:
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler over low-medium heat. Heat just until melted.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread a relatively thin, but complete, layer of the crumbs into the bottom of one jelly roll pan or two 9-inch by 13-inch baking pans, reserving some crumbs for later. Spread the chocolate fudge on top. Dot the fudge with the remaining crumbs. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the crumbs begin to turn golden brown.

Cool completely before cutting. Freezes well.

Note: I don’t have a clue who Mrs. Larson is, but she makes a mean bar.

Source: Aunty B.