It’s amazing how much a one item of food can evoke so much emotion.
I mean, it isn’t amazing. I obviously am aware of why it happens: the strong emotions that are evoked because of the associations. The brain makes bonds to create memories (or to protect itself). The smell of pancakes and sausage cooking could provoke memories of family weekends, or maybe it evokes the terror of a horrible job at an IHOP.
Mary Remintaria was a family friend who took care of my brothers when we were younger, and my parents were working. I remember our trips to Pizza Hut for the buffet and the unlimited pizza. I remember her standing in her kitchen with yellow dishwashing gloves as food cooked. But most of all, I remember the dessert: a chocolate cookie cake with puree strawberries. Something that we craved and always hoped she would have chilled in the fridge when we went over, something that paired perfectly with cartoons on television.
Mary passed away in the early 2000’s after a battle with cancer, but her memory lives on. I never really learned to like cooking food (for a variety of reasons) but I loved making that cake: I made it for special occasions, like when I was trying to woo women, or when I had to bring something to a potluck.
My first year at Pacific University, I attempted to make it for the people in my dorm, as a little party: I rode my bike to the store and stuffed everything I needed into my bag. I realized that the whole point of whipping cream was that you needed some way to whip it fast, and I thought I could just do it by hand. So I rode back to the store to pick up cool-whip, and just tried to crush cut up strawberries to make a puree.
I love to break this dessert out, and to see people taste the legacy of Mary’s love and affection. I never knew the technical name of the dessert, so I always referred to it as “Mary’s Dessert.” (Apparently Google refers to it as “Zebra Cake”). Below is the recipe, and I hope you take the opportunity to share it with your loved ones.
Mary’s Dessert (Zebra Cake)
- Nabisco Famous Wafers
- Whipping Cream
- Fresh StrawberriesA note: this recipe does not really require “exact amounts” of ingredients. Eye ball or guess.
- Whip the cream. Use a powered mixer (Cool Whip or something else is also acceptable if your don’t have a powered mixer).
- Get a casserole pan (something with sides) and cover the bottom with the wafer cookies. These are going to be individual stacks.
- Put whipped cream on the cookies.
- Put another cookie of the dollop of cream. Repeat 4-6 times.
- The final stacks should be able to stand by themselves.
- Put the stacks in the fridge overnight to cool.
Next, chop up strawberries and put into blender. Puree the fruit, put it in the fridge to cool
The next day, take the stacks out and drizzle the fruit puree on top. Serve one stack to a person and eat it with a fork.